Director’s Message: PEER Annual Meeting, White House Earthquake Resilience Summit, and Executive Order on Establishing a Federal Earthquake Risk Management Standard

Mosalam imageThe PEER Annual Meeting took place on January 28-29, 2016, at the International House on the UC Berkeley campus. I would like to thank all the participants for being effectively engaged during this two-day meeting. We started the first day with a comprehensive overview of PEER accomplishments in several thrust areas of research and education, including Geohazards, Tsunami, and the Built Environment focusing on old and new reinforced concrete and steel structures, tall buildings, and rapid bridge construction. Also on this day, we learned about important future directions towards “Resilient Infrastructure Systems.” Some of the highlights of these future directions are NIST-supported activities related to community resilience, the need to pay attention to the interdependencies of the infrastructure systems, research challenges in expanding Performance-Based Earthquake Engineering (PBEE) to encompass resiliency for community recovery, and expanding the resilience definition beyond the direct engineering and ecological context to be also transformative, especially after extreme events.

The second day was structured around breakout sessions to develop forward-thinking research directions in Geohazards, Computational Modeling and Simulation, Tsunami, Transportation, and New and Existing Buildings. This day was concluded by an overview of results from these important research directions as well as the PEER Resilience Involvement Quick Survey, (, which was highly beneficial to acquire participant feedback about the resilience involvement of PEER. I look forward to working with the PEER community in converting the forward-thinking guidelines from the Annual Meeting to future research agenda items in the direction of adopting PBEE methodologies and related technologies for achieving resilience of our built environment.

This direction of research within PEER is indeed timely considering the February 2, 2016, White House Earthquake Resilience Summit and the new Executive Order (EO), ( about federal seismic standards signed by President Obama. The EO states that:

The Federal Government recognizes that building codes and standards primarily focus on ensuring minimum acceptable levels of earthquake safety for preserving the lives of building occupants. To achieve true resilience against earthquakes, however, new and existing buildings may need to exceed those codes and standards to ensure, for example, that the buildings can continue to perform their essential functions following future earthquakes. Agencies are thus encouraged to consider going beyond the codes and standards set out in this order to ensure that buildings are fully earthquake resilient. It is the policy of the United States to strengthen the security and resilience of the Nation against earthquakes, to promote public safety, economic strength, and national security. To that end, the Federal Government must continue to take proactive steps to enhance the resilience of buildings that are owned, leased, financed, or regulated by the Federal Government.

Similar statements about the necessity in going beyond code objectives to achieve post-earthquake functionality and the public’s misinterpretation of code objectives were mentioned in various presentations during the PEER Annual Meeting. With PEER’s efforts in PBEE methodology and its extension to resilience, it is PEER’s priority to do more towards fulfilling this public expectation of resiliency supported by governmental policies as indicated in the EO. Particularly, we will increase our interaction and collaboration with ongoing efforts towards resilience such as the ATC-58 efforts in developing probabilistic performance-based design guidelines, the US Resiliency Council’s building rating system, NIST Community resilience program, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) Resilient City approach, and research related to protective systems and modeling of community functioning following earthquakes. We will also collaborate with the practicing earthquake engineering community to reflect this resiliency extension on the design, assessment and retrofit applications as stated in the presidential EO.

I welcome your feedback in progressing towards achieving resilient structures, infrastructure systems, and communities. Contact me at