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 currently is a member of the NCST Technical Investigation of Hurricane Maria and its impacts on Puerto Rico. Within the Hurricane Maria Program, Dr. Levitan is characterizing the wind environment and studying the performance of critical facilities with a focus on shelters, under two NCST projects. He is also studying the causes of the loss of functionality and extended-duration outage of the wireless communication system under an NWIRP project.
Dr. Levitan leads much of NIST’s R&D to improve windstorm provisions in model buildings codes and standards, design guidance, and practices for the construction and rehabilitation of buildings, structures, and lifelines. Dr. Levitan chairs the International Code Council’s IS-STM committee developing ICC 500-2023, the ICC/NSSA Standard on the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, and chaired the committees that wrote the first and third 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 ASCE 7 Tornado Task Committee that developed the new tornado load provisions in the ASCE/SEI 7-22 Standard on Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures, and co-chairs the committee developing a national standard for wind speed estimation in tornadoes and other windstorms, which will include major improvements to the EF Scale. He previously chaired the committee that wrote the ASCE Guidelines for Wind Loads on Petrochemical and Other Industrial Facilities, and the ASCE National Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee.
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: 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.