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Taking their experience from the classroom to the state’s disaster areas

NJIT students bring broad perspective to damaged sites


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NJIT students have lent their design expertise to hard-hit areas of the state, says Thomas Dallessio, which was a natural fit, since the school played a role in rebuilding after Katrina.
NJIT students have lent their design expertise to hard-hit areas of the state, says Thomas Dallessio, which was a natural fit, since the school played a role in rebuilding after Katrina. - (AARON HOUSTON)

It's not just established architects who are taking part in the rebuilding effort from Hurricane Sandy. Since January, students from the New Jersey Institute of Technology have been traveling to the hardest-hit parts of the state, lending their design expertise to homeowners, businesses and municipalities affected by the October storm.

The effort is coordinated through the school's Center for Resilient Design, which was established in the weeks after the disaster, and has led to the creation of about 20 remote design studios through late March. In locations like Sea Bright, where Sandy affected 90 percent of businesses, students and faculty are helping develop design guidelines, while using drawings and computer models to show how buildings would appear at new federal flood elevations.

Thomas Dallessio, the project manager for the center, considers the work a virtual mandate for NJIT, noting it has the state's only public college of architecture — and the largest on the East Coast. That made it a natural choice to send some of its students and faculty to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Over several years, the group helped residents with designs as they rebuilt their homes, while also guiding local officials through policy changes to make the communities more resilient, he said.

“I'm continually amazed at the people in New Jersey who don't know about the resources of NJIT,” said Dallessio, an adjunct professor at the Newark-based institution. “So this is a good opportunity for us to go out there and say, 'This is who we are, this is what we do — and as the only public college of architecture, we are the folks who can help you.' ”

NJIT's architecture program “learned several lessons from those efforts” in Louisiana, Dallessio said. Since the center opened the first of its volunteer studios in January, he said, students are spending 20 to 40 hours weekly for the work and receiving academic credit, much of it in coordination with municipal officials.

The work has taken the students to places ranging from Newark, where they are helping reinforce a library in the city's Ironbound section, to Brick Township, where they are involved in redesigning a housing complex decimated by flooding and fire. Dallessio said the flexibility of the program is especially important, given the range of Sandy's damage.

“There is no one solution, there is no silver bullet to resiliency,” he said. “And just as you can't literally export every idea from New Orleans to New Jersey, one should not anticipate that the solution for the Ironbound section of Newark is at all appropriate for Sea Bright.”

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On Twitter: @joshburdnj

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Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.



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