In locations prone to storm surge flooding, zoning and code rules adopted at the state and local level require special measures to make homes safer from damage or destruction in a major storm. But hundreds of thousands of houses, commercial buildings, public structures, and industrial facilities already exist in flood-threatened areas, and fixing one building or facility at a time could take centuries—at a cost that boggles the minds of policy-makers.

So the Federal Government is looking to industry and academia for solutions that might work at a neighborhood scale, or even a regional scale. So far, policymakers are still at the brainstorming stage: This week, Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, selected 10 project concepts from a candidate pool of 41 proposals submitted by teams of experts. It's all part of the "Rebuild by Design" competition, launched last June by HUD as an effort of the Hurricane Sandy Task Force.

Reports the Washington Post: "The winning ideas include an array of strategies for making the coastline more resilient in an age of rising seas, including natural breakwaters that could take the punch out of storm surf headed for Staten Island, a ring of water-trapping canals and parks for Hoboken, N.J., and channels in Long Beach, N.Y., that would help drain Long Island's coastal bays during storms or periods of heavy rain." (For the full Post item, see: "Federal officials pick 10 ideas for making NY, NJ coastlines more resilient after Sandy," by Associated Press).

Of course, there's no guarantee that all of the ideas will ever become reality—or even that any of them will. Some could require billions of dollars in public funding—although other proposals, like the "Big U" concept suggested by Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingals, might not. The Danes argue that major, big-ticket public works are hard to accomplish and may do more harm than good. Instead, they're proposing a medley of smaller projects that address flood risks at the neighborhood or street level, which could be constructed independently on different schedules.

For more on the continuing story, see the Rebuild by Design website.