performance-based earthquake engineering (PBEE) could achieve a resilient infrastructure that incorporates these innovative new materials and structural systems.

The five overarching Grand Challenges are summarized in the sections that follow. Characteristics of each Grand Challenge are given, along with transformative approaches to solving the grand challenge problems and the potential resulting impacts. Appendix A contains the original descriptions of the 13 grand challenge problems from the breakout sessions.


Description of the Problem

Participants noted that although research has yielded numerous findings related to community resilience, many of these findings do not influence decisions or actions by key decision makers including private-sector facility owners and public-sector institutions.1 Characterizing the interactions and impacts at a community level necessitates an understanding of both the direct and indirect impacts of earthquakes, and a framework for measuring, monitoring, and evaluating community resilience could help ensure that past and future advances in building, lifelines, urban design, technology, and socioeconomic research result in improved community resilience. Such a framework could apply innovative methodologies, models, and data to measure community performance at various scales—e.g., building, lifeline, and community—and build on the experience and lessons of past events. Participants reiterated that such an interactive and comprehensive framework is lacking within the earthquake engineering community. In addition, many participants noted a need for basic research on the different mechanisms for motivating action. This includes information that stakeholders may use to quantify the costs and benefits of various mitigation strategies and the incentives for action that are meaningful to various constituencies, ranging from laws and regulations to informally applied norms.

Characteristics of the Grand Challenge

Because resilience is multi-dimensional and multi-scale, achieving resilience requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The earthquake engineering research community is, for example, unable at this time to define and measure multiple dimensions of resilience. Workshop participants discussed the need for a characterization of resiliency in terms of scale and metrics that are both applicable for diverse systems and for their interdependencies. Because researchers do not have standard methods or measures for resiliency, it is difficult to determine when resiliency has been achieved. This is because current engineering approaches are limited in their ability to characterize resilience outcomes or to characterize them in ways that are meaningful for end users.

Transformative Approaches to the Solution

Many workshop participants emphasized that characterizing community resilience will require a significant shift in how the performance of communities is quantified. For example, existing research programs in earthquake engineering mainly focus on the performance of individual components or systems (e.g., buildings and specific lifeline systems), whereas understanding the performance of a community requires an understanding of the interactions among all of these components. Many questions still exist, including: how does the performance of an electric power system affect the performance of other lifeline systems? How does the disruption of power affect local and regional businesses? How does an industry in an affected region impact other industries that may not have been directly impacted by damage? Multi-scale modeling of resilience could effectively relate these diverse interactions.

Another issue that has impeded the ability to measure and understand community resilience is the lack of historical data on recovery of communities from past disasters. Participants discussed the potential for a national observatory network to address the disaster vulnerability and resilience of communities using methodologies applied consistently over time and space, with attention to complex interactions between changes in social systems, the built environment, and the natural environment. They cited a 2008 workshop sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation that discussed the structure of such a network, called the Resiliency and Vulnerability Observatory Network (Peacock et al., 2008). Output from this network could help foster many research projects on community resilience including:

  • Developing and testing community resiliency metrics at different scales (e.g., communities, regions) and for different community components (e.g., buildings, lifelines, social networks, economy).
  • Researching, developing, and testing various methods for quantifying resilience and determining the best method for stakeholder decision making.
  • Creating a resilience observation pilot study, which could be a candidate city, neighborhood, or group of buildings (see “Instrumented City”), setting a baseline, and observing actions/changes over time to define metrics and timeframes of resiliency dynamics.
  • Encouraging the development of quantitative recovery models and developing theoretically and empirically based models of post-earthquake recovery


1 See the white paper in Appendix B by Laurie Johnson, the keynote speaker on community resilience: “Transformative Earthquake Engineering Research and Solutions for Achieving Earthquake-Resilient Communities.”

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