The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), an important component of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). Since 2004, NEES researchers have produced significant advances in the science and technology for earthquake loss reduction that would have not been possible without the network’s experimental facilities and cyberinfrastructure. By Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, NSF will have supported 10 years of NEES operation and research. Looking beyond 2014, NSF asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a community workshop to describe the Grand Challenges for earthquake engineering research related to achieving earthquake resilience. This report summarizes the discussions at the workshop.
NEHRP is a multi-agency program focused on reducing losses due to earthquakes. It includes programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Federal Emergency Management Agency, NSF, and U.S. Geological Survey. A major component of NSF’s role in NEHRP is focused on NEES, a large-scale investment in a nationally distributed network of shared engineering facilities for experimental and computational research—a national infrastructure for testing geotechnical, structural, and nonstructural systems (see Box 1.1 for a description of the existing NEES network).
With the current NEES network scheduled to end in 2014, NSF has sought community input for the preparation of plans, for FY 2014 and beyond, to address Grand Challenges in basic earthquake engineering research. NSF has stipulated that future investments in networked earthquake engineering research infrastructure beyond 2014 should not be focused on—or limited to—existing facilities but would build on the synergies provided by networked facilities and cyberinfrastructure tools to achieve solutions to the grand challenge problems.
A steering committee was established by the NRC to organize the workshop and to write a report summarizing what transpired at the workshop. Committee members were selected for their expertise in earthquake engineering research, broadly defined, with a focus on the use of experimental facilities and the application of cyberinfrastructure to engineering research. Special effort was made to involve members who were not strongly associated with existing NEES facilities so that the workshop could take a fresh look at the Grand Challenges and facilities requirements beyond 2014. The committee met in December 2010 to plan the workshop and again immediately following the workshop to organize workshop outputs into a report.
Approach for the Workshop
In accordance with the Statement of Task, the committee designed the workshop to look beyond 2014 and focus on two key questions:
- What are the high-priority Grand Challenges in basic earthquake engineering research that require a network of earthquake engineering experimental facilities and/or cyberinfrastructure?1
- What are the general requirements for experimental facilities and cyberinfrastructure that will be needed to most effectively address the identified Grand Challenges?
1 The committee understood the first question of “networks of facilities and cyberinfrastructure,” not to require both but to allow a network of experimental facilities or a network of cyberinfrastructure services. Consequently, the word “and”—as written in the task statement (see Box S.1)—was interpreted as “and/or.”
The Existing NEES Network
The primary focus of NEES is on the research community and practicing engineers who develop the innovations necessary to reduce the impact of seismic disasters. The NEES network infrastructure encompasses management headquarters; 14 earthquake engineering and tsunami research facility sites located at universities across the United States (available for testing on-site, in the field, or remotely); and cyberinfrastructure operations that connect the work of the experimental facilities, researchers, educators, and students.
The committee suggested that the Grand Challenges would define the frontiers in basic earthquake engineering research needed to provide transformative solutions for achieving an earthquake-resilient society. Transformative solutions to the Grand Challenges could be achieved by improved design codes, public policies, innovative systems, design and analysis methods, and sensing and actuation technologies embedded in the built environment. Workshop participants were asked to address the key questions without regard to the current capabilities or limitations of the existing NEES facilities.
Paraphrasing the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, a grand challenge is a large and complex problem that needs to be mastered to ensure the sustainability of civilization and the health of its citizens while reducing individual and societal vulnerabilities (NAE, 2008). A grand challenge will not be met without finding ways to overcome the barriers that block its accomplishment. The NEHRP vision—“A nation that is earthquake resilient in public safety, economic strength, and national security” (NEHRP, 2008)—is a grand challenge by the NAE definition. A fundamental goal of this workshop, therefore, was to describe the earthquake engineering challenges in terms of problems, barriers, and bottlenecks that must be solved to realize the NEHRP vision.
The workshop was held on March 14–15, 2011, at the NRC’s Beckman Center in Irvine, California. Workshop participants included 37 researchers and practitioners drawn from a wide range of disciplines to focus on the two key questions in the task statement. In addition, seven observers from NSF and the broader earthquake engineering research community attended the discussions. Altogether, there were 53 workshop attendees, including the committee and NRC staff.
The committee invited six keynote speakers to the workshop to inform discussions about the Grand Challenges and rapid advances in technology. Through their presentations and associated white papers (see Appendix B), which were distributed prior to the workshop, the speakers were tasked with articulating a vision that would help guide workshop discussions. The first three keynote speakers—Laurie Johnson, Laurie Johnson Consulting; Reginald DesRoches, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University—presented their ideas for transformative earthquake engineering research in the categories of community, lifelines, and buildings, respectively. Each considered four dimensions: community resilience, pre-event prediction and planning, design of infrastructure, and post-event response and recovery (see Box 1.2). To facilitate discussion on the advances in technology, three additional keynote speakers—James Myers, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; John Halloran, University of Michigan; and Omar Ghattas, University of Texas at Austin—presented roadmaps for information technology, materials, and modeling and simulation, respectively. The technology keynote speakers introduced the workshop participants to the transformative possibilities of technology for earthquake engineering beyond 2014.
Additionally, two workshop participants—Ken Elwood, University of British Columbia, and Thomas Heaton, California Institute of Technology—provided their observations on the two recent devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan (see Box 1.3). Gregory Fenves, co-chair of the committee, spoke briefly on behalf of Masayoshi Nakashima, committee member, who was unable to attend the workshop because of the major earthquake in Japan which had occurred just days before the workshop.
Breakout sessions were the primary mechanism for brainstorming, analyzing, and documenting responses to the two key workshop questions. Four breakout sessions were structured along the dimensions described in Box 1.2, and one breakout session organized participants along disciplinary lines: buildings, lifelines, geotechnical/tsunamis, and community resilience. Each breakout session included a moderator, who served as both leader of the breakout session and facilitator of open and organized discussion, and a committee member who served as rapporteur. The moderators—
Four Dimensions as an Organizing Principle for the Workshop
As an organizing principle for the workshop, the committee defined four dimensions to achieve the vision for an earthquake-resilient society. Examples of topics in each dimension are defined below. These were used as a starting point for the discussions at the workshop.
- Defining community response and recovery needs.
- Obtaining community-based information and experiences that can be used for policy development.
- Collecting, processing, analyzing, and disseminating information.
- Pervasive information sharing and decision making through social networking and crowd-sourcing technology.
- Understanding social dynamics that influence community decisions and actions.
Pre-event prediction and planning
- Damage prediction and the estimation of the impacts and losses for individual buildings, lifelines, and societal systems.
- Validated and reliable models of soil-foundation-building systems, non-structural systems, and building contents.
- Design of lifeline systems for multiple performance objectives and multiple levels of ground motion.
- Models of inventory that can be validated and updated for regional impact assessment and loss estimation.
- Predictive model of system performance and interdependencies.
- Social, human, and economic resilience modeling, and the effects on adaptability after a disaster.
- Modeling of effects of governance on resilience, such as regulatory regimes, emergency decision-making processes, and recovery policies.
Design of infrastructure
- Analysis and design approaches, strategies, and methods for systems, components, and materials, including new infrastructure, rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, and repair of damaged infrastructure.
- Infrastructure design for individual buildings, lifelines, and urban environments as complex systems.
- Transparent and performance-based approaches for buildings and lifelines along with other approaches that achieve multiple objectives for resiliency.
Post-event response and recovery
- Post-event sensing, damage diagnosis, and prognosis of individual facilities and interdependent infrastructure systems in dense urban environments.
- Use of sensing systems for emergency response, including assessment, prioritization, dispatching, and decision making.
- Real-time model updating and validation.
- Social networking and crowd-sourcing technologies for understanding complex societal dynamics, including temporary changes in governance after an event and during recovery.
Kathleen Tierney, University of Colorado, Boulder; John Egan, AMEC Geomatrix; Ken Elwood, University of British Columbia; and Sharon Wood, University of Texas at Austin—also served as chief spokespersons for their breakout group in plenary sessions. Each breakout session allowed ample time for discussion, interaction, and iteration, followed by a report in the plenary sessions with refinement by participants.
Summary of Keynote Presentations
The first three presentations focused on identifying and describing the Grand Challenges. Laurie Johnson discussed needs and opportunities for networked facilities and cyberinfrastructure in support of basic and applied research on community resilience, including the need to develop more robust models of building risk/resiliency and aggregate inventories of community risk/resiliency for use in mitigation, land use planning, and emergency planning. Reginald DesRoches discussed a number of challenges faced by lifeline facilities, including their wide range in scale and spatial distribution, the fact that lifelines are partially or completely buried and are therefore strongly influenced by soil-structure interaction, their increasing interconnectedness, and their aging and deterioration. Gregory Deierlein discussed methods for addressing the research needs and challenges for buildings, which he distinguished between those associated with either pre-earthquake planning, design and construction, or post-earthquake response, evaluation, and restoration.
Observations from New Zealand and Japan
Ken Elwood, University of British Columbia, presented his observations from the February 22, 2011, earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, as three lessons relevant to the Grand Challenges in earthquake engineering. They are summarized below:
a. Consideration of aftershocks (e.g., residual capacity) should be incorporated into performance-based seismic design.
b. We need a better understanding of the seismology of aftershocks and their broader effects within the seismological environment, and to incorporate this knowledge into post-earthquake decisions and recovery strategies.
- Influence of soil-structure interaction (including liquefaction) on structural response
a. Liquefaction can both help and hinder structural performance (damage to the building may occur, but the contents of the building will remain intact).
b. A more holistic approach to buildings is needed (e.g., one that considers geotechnical systems).
c. Large-scale studies are needed to study the interaction between the building and the foundation.
- Community resilience
a. Damage to the community extends far beyond lives lost; destruction of historical buildings and landmarks can have huge impacts on a city’s character and identity.
b. A major public policy challenge is how to protect existing buildings (especially very old buildings with little real estate value).
c. We need to evaluate the impact that post-earthquake assessment has on the ability for the city to recover.
The following are comments from committee member Masayoshi Nakashima, Kyoto University, regarding the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. These were based on preliminary information available in Japan on March 14, 2011.
- An extremely large rupture of more than 400 km was not anticipated by seismologists.
- A huge tsunami caused complete devastation of many towns and villages and large loss of life. Damage and deaths from tsunamis appear to be much greater than from the earthquake shaking.
- There was significant subsidence (about 1 to 2 meters) of coast lines, which is speculated to have aggravated the tsunami damage.
- Urban damage, such as observed in Sendai, is particularly characterized by the loss of lifelines.
- The performance of hundreds of high-rises and base-isolated buildings in the Tokyo metropolitan area appears to be good. Many days are needed to collect associated data.
- There is widespread disruption in the Tokyo metropolitan area, because of a shortage of electric power.
- Post-earthquake responses of the central and local governments are being tested. Several hundred thousand people were forced to move to evacuation centers.
- Technical and social response to nuclear accidents is a major issue for the country.
- The earthquake caused large fires, including at oil tank farms.
- There is severe liquefaction in areas of reclaimed land.
The second three presentations focused on advances in technology. James Myers discussed information technology and explored the potential for increased computing power, data sizes, and sensor density—combined with a rapidly increasing capability to focus those resources on demand and to automate larger and more complex tasks—to further progress on the Grand Challenges. John Halloran discussed new materials and proposed designing a built environment with more resilient, lighter, stronger, and more sustainable materials based on fossil carbon. Finally, Omar Ghattas discussed opportunities to extend large-scale simulation-based seismic hazard and risk analysis from its current reliance on deterministic earthquake simulations to those based on stochastic models.
This report is the committee’s summary of what transpired at the workshop. It reflects only those topics addressed in workshop presentations, discussions, and background papers, and it is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all topics and issues relevant to earthquake engineering research. The observations or views contained in this report are those of individual participants and do not necessarily rep
resent the views of all workshop participants, the committee, or the NRC. Therefore, references in the report to workshop “participants” do not imply that all participants were polled or that they necessarily agreed with the particular statements. In addition, the grand challenge problems and networked facilities discussed in the following sections were suggested by breakout group participants and they do not represent conclusions or recommendations of the committee or the NRC.
Chapter 2 describes the Grand Challenges in earthquake engineering research that require a network of earthquake engineering experimental facilities and cyberinfrastructure, and Chapter 3 summarizes those requirements. Appendix A contains the final breakout group presentations, and Appendix B contains the six white papers presented by the keynote speakers at the workshop. A list of workshop participants and the agenda are given in Appendixes C and D, respectively. Appendix E presents biographical sketches of the committee members.