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Disaster Resilient Systems Program


The objective of the Disaster Resilient Systems Program is to develop and deploy advances in measurement science to enhance the resilience of buildings and infrastructure to natural and manmade hazards.


This Program addresses the gap between basic research and building codes, standards, and practice through measurement science research to: (1) predict structural performance up to failure under extreme loading conditions: (2) predict disaster resilience at the building and community scale; (3) assess and evaluate the ability of existing structures to withstand extreme loads; (4) design new buildings and retrofit existing buildings using cost-effective, performance-based methods; and (5) derive lessons learned from disasters and failures involving structures. The Program enhances the resilience and robustness of structures by focusing on: prevention of disproportionate structural collapse, fire resistance of structures, extreme wind engineering, coastal inundation, multi-hazard failure analysis, and disaster and failure studies.

This Program supports the Engineering Laboratory (EL) mission of promoting U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness in areas of critical national priority by anticipating and meeting the measurement science and standards needs for technology-intensive manufacturing, construction, and cyber-physical systems in ways that enhance economic prosperity and improve the quality of life. The Program supports the EL core competencies in resilience and fire protection. The Program further fulfills a national knowledge transfer role that is not well-supported by a fragmented U.S. construction industry (ACI 318, AISC, ASCE 7). Finally, NIST has statutory responsibilities including: (1) the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act (2004); (2) the Fire Prevention and Control Act (1974); and (3) the National Construction Safety Team Act (2002).

Major Accomplishments:

Some recent accomplishments in the area of Prevention of Disproportionate Structural Collapse (Measures of Structural Robustness) include:

  • The document “Best Practices for Reducing the Potential for Progressive Collapse in Buildings” has been adopted by ASCE 7-10 Standard as part of the commentary section on General Structural Integrity.
  • Developed experimentally validated 3D models of steel and reinforced concrete frame buildings for assessment of reserve capacity and vulnerability to disproportionate collapse.

Some recent accomplishments in the area of Fire Resistance Design and Retrofit of Structures include:

  • Developed a probabilistic FEA methodology for computing uncertainty of structural temperatures based on knowledge of uncertainties in key input parameters for fire and thermal insulation conditions. Identified key input parameters for calculation of temperatures in concrete slabs.
  • Developed 3-D immersive visualization software and desktop utility for simultaneous display and interrogation of analysis results of fire dynamics, transient heat transfer, and nonlinear structural response.
  • Published Best Practice Guidelines for Fire Resistance Design of Concrete and Steel Buildings.

Some recent accomplishments in the area of Wind Engineering and Multi-Hazard Failure Analysis include:

  • NIST report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published as NUREG/CR-7004 Technical Basis for Regulatory Guidance on Design-Basis Hurricane-Borne Missile Speeds for Nuclear Power Plants.
  • Software, Database Assisted Design for Tall Reinforced Concrete Buildings,
  • A methodology for estimating the risk posed by the combined effect of hurricane wind and storm surge on specific coastal location (accounting for local topography).

Some recent accomplishments in the area of Fire Resistive Materials for Structural Steel include:

  • Developed a new test method for determining thermal conductivity of SFRM that has been implemented as an ASTM standard: ASTM E2584-07 "Standard Practice for Thermal Conductivity of Materials Using a Thermal Capacitance (Slug) Calorimeter."
  • Developed a new sample geometry (trapezoid) that greatly simplifies the measurement of adhesion.
  • Some recent accomplishments in the area of Standard Methods to Assess the Resilience of the Built Environment (Measures of Building Resilience) include:
  • Revisions to two ASTM Standards (ASTM E2506 Guide for Developing a Cost-Effective Risk Mitigation Plan for New and Existing Constructed Facilities and ASTM E2541 Guide for Stakeholder-Focused, Consensus-Based Disaster Restoration Process for Contaminated Assets) have been balloted and approved by ASTM’s E06 Committee on Performance of Buildings and ASTM’s E54 Committee on Homeland Security. (Impact)
  • A report with a framework/roadmap for research needed to support the development of building and community resilience standards, based on the 2011 Roundtable and Workshop/industry review and input (Sep 2012).  

Some recent accomplishments in the Disaster and Failure Studies Program include:

  • Completed drafts of Standard Operating Procedures and Updated CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) procedures for the National Construction Safety Team (NCST).
  • Reconstituted the NCST Advisory Committee. The committee’s first meeting was held in November 2011.
  • Implemented the WTC database as phase 1 of the disaster repository.
World Trade Center complex
Worker looks over the disaster site at New York City’s World Trade Center complex a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Photo credit: FEMA

Start Date:

October 1, 2011

Lead Organizational Unit:




General Information:

Fahim Sadek
301 975 4420 Telephone

100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8611
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8611