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Marc Levitan (Fed)

Research Wind Engineer

Dr. Marc Levitan researches tornadoes and hurricanes, their impacts, and mitigation in support of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP), a multiagency program whose purpose is to achieve major measurable reductions in the losses of life and property from windstorms. Dr. Levitan served as the first Director (Acting) of NWIRP, from 2015-2018, and is currently its Lead Research Engineer.  He was also the Lead Investigator for the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Technical Investigation of the 2011 Joplin Tornado and for the NIST study of the 2013 Newcastle-Moore Oklahoma tornado. He currently heads implementation activities for many of the recommendations resulting from these tornado studies.   Dr. Levitan served on FEMA’s Hurricane Maria Mitigation Assessment Team and is a member of the NIST’s Team studying Hurricane Maria. Within the Hurricane Maria Program, Dr. Levitan is characterizing the wind environment, studying the performance of critical buildings with a focus on shelters, and studying the causes of the loss of functionality and extended-duration outage of the wireless communication system.

Dr. Levitan leads much of NIST’s R&D to improve windstorm provisions in model buildings codes and standards, design guidance, and practice for the construction and rehabilitation of buildings, structures, and lifelines. He chairs the International Code Council committee that writes the ICC/NSSA Standard on the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, and chaired the committees that wrote the 1st, 3rd and 4th editions of that standard.  An active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Dr. Levitan leads several important standards committees. He chairs the task committee on tornado load provisions for the ASCE 7 Standard on Minimum Design Loads for Buildings, the ASCE 7 task committee developing provisions for future wind conditions - incorporating effects of climate change, and co-chairs the committee developing a national standard for wind speed estimation in tornadoes and other windstorms. Dr. Levitan chaired the committee that wrote the ASCE Guidelines for Wind Loads on Petrochemical and Other Industrial Facilities; current industry practices for wind loading on these aerodynamically complex structures are largely based on his research.

In addition to his work on codes and standards, Dr. Levitan has provided national leadership in wind engineering through chairing national and international conferences and workshops; service on boards of technical organizations, and testimony before Congressional and state legislative committees on wind hazards, disasters, and mitigation.  He served as President of the American Association for Wind Engineering and chaired AAWE’s 10th Americas Conference on Wind Engineering. He served for several years on the Board of Directors of the Applied Technology Council (a nonprofit R&D corporation), including a term as Vice-President. Dr. Levitan’s activism on the Board helped expand ATC activities from earthquake-centric to include more work with wind and flood hazards.  He served on the Executive Committee for VORTEX-SE, a joint NOAA/NSF tornado research program. Dr. Levitan has testified before several United States Senate and House committees on wind hazard mitigation and provided congressional briefings on hurricane and tornado disasters and building code issues. He has testified in support of adoption of modern building codes at state legislative hearings in Louisiana and Mississippi.  He served on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association for many years. Prior to joining NIST, Dr. Levitan also served as an expert consultant on a number of investigations of hurricane wind and flood damage.

Recognitions include: Department of Commerce Gold Medal (2023) for development of tornado load requirements in the ASCE 7-22 standard (with L. Phan); election to Fellow of the ASCE Structural Engineering Institute (2022); the NIST Engineering Laboratory Mentoring Award (2022); Engineering News Record’s Top 25 Newsmakers of 2021; the NIST Engineering Lab’s Communicator Award (2021) for a transformative series of communications on tornado-resistant design; the Gears of Government Award (2019) and a Department of Commerce Gold Medal (2018) for development of new national design wind speed maps used in ASCE 7-16 and the 2018 International Building Code (with A. Pintar and E. Simiu); the National Storm Shelter Association Kiesling Award (2017), for Outstanding Contributions to storm shelter industry; the NIST Engineering Lab’s Communication Award (2015), for the Final Report on the Joplin Tornado Investigation (with E. Kuligowski and L. Phan); the Best Paper of the Year Award from Risk Analysis, An International Journal, for a paper on the relationships between mortality and flood characteristics following Hurricane Katrina (with S. Jonkman, B. Maaskant, and E. Boyd); and several faculty excellence and teaching awards from Chi Epsilon, Louisiana State University, and Texas Tech University.


Design Guide for New Tornado Load Requirements in ASCE 7-22

Erik Perfetto, James Taylor, Karah Osburn, Brian O'Connor, Marc Levitan, Jennifer Mitchell
This instructional guidance is for design professionals and building officials to help them determine when a building or other structure is required to be
Created May 7, 2019, Updated May 2, 2024