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Strategic Goal: Disaster-Resilient Buildings, Infrastructure, and Communities

The U.S. maintains an extensive network of infrastructure to ensure public health, safety, security, and commerce. Losses due to disaster and deterioration due to aging, chemical attack, and mechanical fatigue places these structures at risk for failures, and represent hundreds of billions of dollars of at-risk infrastructure.These consequences will directly and indirectly impact personal and economic health. Faced with constrained budgets, decision makers seek cost-effective alternatives for revitalizing the Nation's infrastructure.

A significant barrier to the consideration of innovative alternatives is the lack of measurement science for assessing the performance of infrastructure and building assets, along with validated cost-benefit tools that include reliable estimates of life cycle costs.Without these tools, there will be few options other than to make direct replacements, using the same materials and methods, rather than using innovative approaches that could save the Nation's resources.

Disaster-related losses in the U.S. average in excess of $57 billion annually and impose a significant threat to life and a burden to the economy. Cost effective disaster resilience, including life-safety and property loss reduction, due to natural and man-made hazards, is a recognized national need that requires scientific advances to enable technological innovation, enhance predictive capabilities, and improve codes, standards, best practices, and emergency response. Thus, measurement science needs to be developed to address: (a) resilience to natural and man-made hazard events, including data collection from disaster events, and (b) the physical and economic performance of building and infrastructure materials that provide the Nation's primary defense against earthquakes, fires, floods, windstorms, and the effects of weathering / aging.

Who participates in this space now?

Participation in disaster resilience efforts spans the federal government (e.g., CDC, DHS, FEMA, USGS, NSF, Forest Service, US Fire Administration, DOI, NOAA, OSTP, DARPA), state/local governments (e.g. NYC, CAL Fire), professional societies (e.g. ASCE, SFPE), and SDOs (e.g. ASTM, NFPA, ICC), industry (e.g. Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety), and academia (e.g. Colorado State, WPI, UMD, TTU, FIU, Berkeley, and Colorado - Boulder). NIST plays a unique measurement science role and, in the case of the NIST National Fire Research Laboratory (NFRL), has unique capabilities.

Why is it important that NIST/EL be involved?

NIST has statutory responsibilities for fire research (NIST Organic Act), the National Construction Safety Team (NCST Act), National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP Act), and National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP Act). NIST has unique expertise and capabilities in disaster resilience that are essential to federal government's role and responsibilities.NIST is uniquely positioned to leverage required expertise, ranging from microstructural physical-chemical metrology of material performance to the full scale system behaviors of interdependent building and infrastructure systems.


Created September 26, 2011, Updated November 15, 2019