Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) Receives $3.6 Million NSF NEES Grand Challenge Grant

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) has been awarded a five-year, $3.6 million NEES Grand Challenge grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the collapse potential of older nonductile concrete buildings during earthquakes. These buildings are pervasive throughout the U.S. and other countries, and are considered a high risk. The project will fully utilize the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES).

Nonductile concrete buildings were a prevalent construction type in highly seismic zones of the U.S. prior to enforcement of codes for ductile concrete in the mid-1970s, and are widespread in many countries. In California, alone, it is estimated there are 40,000 of these buildings, including residential, commercial and critical service facilities. The poor seismic performance of nonductile concrete buildings was evident in recent earthquakes including Northridge (1994); Kobe, Japan (1995); Chi Chi, Taiwan (1999); Kocaeli, Duzce, and Bingol, Turkey (1999, 1999, 2003); Sumatra (2005); and Pakistan (2005).

For this project, PEER will study the vulnerability and toughening of nonductile concrete infrastructure against earthquake effects. Specifically, PEER's research will develop procedures to identify the truly /dangerous/ buildings from among the large building population, thereby turning an intractable problem into one that can be addressed with available resources. Mitigation strategies developed here also can inform strategies to mitigate for other natural and manmade hazards such as hurricanes and explosions.

"Existing vulnerable buildings are the number one seismic safety problem in the world, and nonductile reinforced concrete buildings are a noteworthy percentage of these that have yet to be addressed in a systematic way," said Jack Moehle, PEER's director. "This project will tackle this issue in a comprehensive way, leading to solutions that can save thousands of lives."

According to Joy Pauschke, Program Director of NEES at NSF, "We have learned the lesson over and over again in past earthquakes in the U.S. and abroad � many of our nation's older concrete buildings, where many of us live and work, are not safe during an earthquake. This project will use the NSF-funded NEES laboratories around the U.S. to provide building owners, occupants, and public officials with solutions to make these buildings safer."

In order to improve understanding of earthquakes and their effects, the National Science Foundation created the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), managed by NEES Consortium, Inc. in Davis, CA, under NSF award number CMMI-0402490. NEES is a shared network of fifteen experimental facilities, collaborative tools, a centralized data repository, and earthquake simulation software, all linked by the ultra high-speed Internet2 connections of NEESgrid. The University of California, Berkeley, is one of the NEES laboratories in this consortium. Altogether, these resources provide the means for collaboration and discovery in the form of more advanced research based on experimentation and computational simulations of the ways buildings, bridges, utility systems, coastal regions, and geomaterials perform during seismic events.

The PEER project team will include these institutions and their respective departments: University of California (UC) at Berkeley�Architecture Dept. and Civil Engineering Dept., UC Irvine�Civil Engineering Dept., UC Los Angeles�Civil Engineering Dept., San Jose State University�Civil Engineering Dept., University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez�Civil Engineering Dept., University of Kansas at Lawrence�Civil Engineering Dept., University of Washington�Political Science Dept., Purdue University—Civil Engineering Dept., University of Southern California�School of Policy, Planning and Development.

The project team is partnering with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) to form the Concrete Coalition, an alliance of concerned engineers, planners, policy experts, and other stakeholders who will work with the project team to develop and implement effective mitigation strategies.

The research will consist of four areas: 1) Exposure—An inventory of older-type concrete buildings will be developed for one urban region to serve as a testbed for regional loss studies.; 2) Component and System Performance—Laboratory and field experiments will be conducted on concrete components and soil-foundation-structure systems to improve understanding of conditions that lead to collapse; 3) Building and Regional Simulation—Computer models and simulations will be developed and used to study regional distribution of building collapses in a major earthquake; and 4) Mitigation Strategies—Effective mitigation strategies will be developed to promote action for risk reduction.

Expected outcomes of PEER's study include improved inventory, data and models for components and subsystems, single building simulation capabilities, improved fragilities/regional simulations, public policy, improved engineering assessment and retrofit tools, increased diversity in earthquake engineering, and active rehabilitation of truly vulnerable buildings nationwide initiated through public policy and professional encouragement.

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) develops, validates and disseminates performance-based seismic design technologies for buildings and infrastructure to meet the diverse economic and safety needs of owners and society. PEER is supported by funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the State of California, participating universities, private industry and business partners. It is administered under the National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Centers Program.