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NIST, NSF Award More Than $7.6 Million to Support Disaster Resilience Research

Building that has been destroyed by a tornado
Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma following the Newcastle-Moore tornado, May 20, 2013. New grants awarded by NIST and NSF will support research into making buildings more resilient to natural disasters.
Credit: NIST

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have awarded more than $7.6 million in grants to fund research that will improve the ability of buildings, infrastructure and communities to hold strong against natural hazards. The agencies are funding 20 projects to be conducted across 24 institutions through the Disaster Resilience Research Grant (DRRG) program, which they manage together. 

“Each year, U.S. communities are increasingly impacted by disastrous natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires,” said Joannie Chin, NIST’s Engineering Laboratory director. “While we can’t eliminate these tragic events, we can help communities reduce their vulnerabilities and increase their resilience with science-based resources. These awards will support efforts to unlock fundamental scientific and engineering insights that will enhance building designs, codes and standards.”

To identify the grant recipients, panels of reviewers with expertise in wildland-urban interface (WUI) fires, earthquakes, windstorms or community resilience assessed 260 applications. Of the 20 selected research projects, the eight funded by NIST are: 

Arizona State University ($400,000)
For a thorough assessment of practices that would allow infrastructure systems to continue operating at a lower capacity when struck by windstorms. The research project also aims to establish methods of simulating the long-term performance of infrastructure under either current or future climate conditions. 

Worcester Polytechnic Institute ($399,999)
For an investigation into how small burning debris, called embers or firebrands, are generated and carried through the air. The analysis could provide fundamental insights into ember formation and transport, informing WUI community practices to mitigate the effects of wildfires.

The University of Miami ($399,801)
To illuminate the effects that simultaneous wind, waves and storm surges have on coastal structures. The results could transform building codes and standards, improving resilience among coastal communities.

The University of California San Diego ($399,204)
To evaluate how steel pipes used as structural components in marine infrastructure, called piles, behave during earthquakes. Through physical experiments and computer modeling, the researchers aim to produce findings that can strengthen appropriate standards and codes for critical port infrastructure in the U.S.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst ($390,009)
To reveal how concrete structural components fortified with fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP), a material often used to patch up damaged or aging concrete buildings, respond to earthquakes. The findings from the project could be used to improve FRP selection for buildings in need of structural reinforcement. 

The University of Miami ($397,767)
For the evaluation of glass-fiber-polymer-reinforced, ultra-high-performance concrete as a sea wall material alternative to conventional steel-reinforced concrete, which can be vulnerable to both abrasion and corrosion from prolonged exposure to salt water and waves. The researchers intend to measure and compare how each material behaves while being impacted by small-scale, simulated waves. 

The University of Maryland, the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Davis ($390,000)
To study how people in the wildland-urban interface, or WUI — where communities closely interact with the wilderness — evacuate from fast-moving wildfires with little or no advanced notice. The researchers seek to develop a highly sophisticated evacuation computer model that could support planning for and action during wildfire evacuations. 

Columbia University ($389,146)
For the development of a large database of simulated hurricane winds over a variety of coastal terrains, which may improve how buildings are designed to resist hurricane-force winds.

The 12 projects funded by NSF are: 

Central Michigan University and the University of California Davis ($400,000)
For the development of realistic seismic motions as inputs to improve modeling and simulation of the effects of earthquakes on structures, which would enhance the seismic resilience of building and infrastructure designs.

Rutgers University New Brunswick ($400,000)
For the development of a modeling system that simulates the financial and behavioral impacts of coastal storms and flood on municipalities. The tool’s purpose will be to support stakeholder deliberation and help local decision-makers mitigate fiscal stresses. 

Clemson University ($399,999)
For the creation of a modeling and analysis framework that can be used to evaluate housing designs and logistics planning for post-hurricane housing solutions. The framework will incorporate housing resilience, supply chain and adaptive logistics operations. 

Carnegie Mellon University ($399,997)
To explore the extent to which decentralized power infrastructure in the form of modular microgrids could mitigate power loss during disaster response and humanitarian relief efforts. 

Northeastern University ($399,504)
For the development of an accessible, artificial-intelligence-powered computer model that can be used to assess the earthquake resilience of urban buildings at a large scale. With this model, the researchers aim to aid disaster planning and decision-making as well as future building design. 

Auburn University ($399,235)
To improve our understanding of near-ground-level winds and debris in extreme windstorms using new computer vision techniques. The results of this work could address a long-standing gap in our characterization of windstorms and inform building codes and standards.

The University of Nebraska Lincoln, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service ($398,887)
To gain a fundamental understanding of how resilient rural areas are to severe windstorms. Based on their findings, the researchers will identify, evaluate and recommend actions to enhance the resilience of these communities.

The University of Texas Arlington ($396,200)
To examine how crowdsourced datasets could be used by diverse coastal communities to characterize factors influencing their resilience to flood disasters at a fine scale. 

San Jose State University ($393,086)
To produce remote sensing tools to measure wildfire behavior in the field. The new information gained with these tools could fill a critical gap in our understanding of wildfires and benefit future fire behavior studies and fire model development.  

Stanford University ($309,441)
To develop high-resolution computational simulation tools to model how housing, infrastructure, and businesses recover from earthquakes given a region's available resources and socioeconomic factors. These tools could be used to assess the efficacy of disaster preparedness efforts. 

The University of Michigan Ann Arbor ($282,720)
For the production of a novel modeling approach that could be used to determine the likelihood of flood hazard in urban areas not adjacent to rivers.

Released May 4, 2022, Updated June 7, 2022