Public Release: 

NSF Funds Earthquake Research Centers In California, Illinois And New York

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named three centers to conduct and coordinate earthquake engineering research for the nation. They will be located at the Universities of Illinois and California and the State University of New York in Buffalo.

"These new centers are needed to extend our understanding of the impacts of seismic events on buildings, roads, bridges, energy sources and other components of our built environment and societal institutions," says William A. Anderson, director of NSF's earthquake mitigation program.

"The 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes in the U.S. and the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, Japan, were grim reminders of the continuing vulnerability of many parts of the world to strong earthquakes," Anderson says. "The knowledge gained through these research centers and shared with engineers, architects and planners will help reduce earthquake hazards and save lives."

The new contracts call for NSF to invest $2 million a year for five years to each of the three centers: the University of California (UC) at Berkeley's Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center; the University of Illinois Mid-America Earthquake Center at the Urbana-Champaign campus; and the State University of New York at Buffalo's (UB) Center for Advanced Technologies in Earthquake Loss-Reduction.

The centers are expected to match the federal funds, dollar-for-dollar, with funds from non-federal sources, and to develop significant cooperation and interactions with industry and government organizations that are key stakeholders in reducing earthquake hazards.

Each of the centers will form a consortium of public and private institutions committed to integrated research and education activities. The centers will use a team approach to draw on experts in a range of fields including engineering, geology, geophysics and the social sciences.

NSF selected the centers for their individual and complementary strengths. The California research center, directed by civil engineer Jack P. Moehle, will develop technologies to reduce urban earthquake losses. The Illinois center, led by civil engineer Daniel P. Abrams, will emphasize reducing potential earthquake losses in the central and eastern U.S. by concentrating on problems associated with low-frequency seismic events.

The New York center, led by civil engineer George C. Lee, will focus on the application of advanced and emerging technologies to reduce earthquake losses. Improved performance loss assessment of buildings and civil infrastructure will be explored, as will rehabilitation of critical facilities, and emergency response and recovery.

In 1986, NSF awarded UB a five-year grant to establish the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER), following a national competition. In 1991 NSF renewed that grant and awarded another five-year grant to establish the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California. With its new 1997 grants, NSF seeks the most comprehensive knowledge attainable about earthquake mitigation.


Attachments: List of Consortia Members
Joint Statement by University Chancellors

Editors: For more information on the three NSF-funded Earthquake Engineering Research Centers, contact the following public affairs officers:

Jesus Mena, UC Berkeley: (510) 642-0319/
James Kloeppel, University of Illinois: (217) 244-1073/
Donald Goralski, UB: (716) 645-3391/

Consortia Members
The Center for Advanced Technologies in Earthquake Loss Reduction, proposed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research and based at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB), comprises nine core institutions: UB; Cornell University; EQE Center for Advanced Planning and Research (Irvine, Calif.); Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware; University of Nevada at Reno; University of Southern California; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Wharton Risk and Decision Process Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Mid-America Earthquake Center consortium based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign includes seven universities: University of Illinois; Georgia Institute of Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Saint Louis University; Texas A&M University; University of Memphis; Washington University.

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center based at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, comprises nine core universities: Caltech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, University of Southern California, and University of Washington. Affiliated institutions in seven western states will augment efforts.


Michael Aiken, Chancellor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Robert Berdahl, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley
William R. Greiner, President, State University of New York, Buffalo

The National Science Foundation's decision to extend and expand its support of earthquake engineering research will bolster the ongoing scientific efforts at Berkeley, Buffalo and Urbana-Champaign to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of earthquakes around the world.

Through its commitment of $30 million over the next five years to fund basic research and public outreach at the three universities NSF assures that we will be able to build on the progress already made by our institutions, and other institutions with which we work as a consortium. These funds will substantially enhance our abilities to develop effective strategies for further reducing the loss of life and major physical devastation from future seismic shocks.

While earthquakes cannot be prevented, researchers at our institutions have shown already that we can build structures that will withstand quakes of high magnitudes; we can retrofit existing buildings, bridges and highways to minimize their vulnerability to quakes; and we can improve the design and construction of the vital linkages on which our commerce and life-support systems depend.

There is much yet to be accomplished in this field of scientific inquiry. Berkeley, Buffalo and Illinois are prepared to provide the research leadership that will ultimately benefit people throughout the globe and place the United States at the forefront of scientific progress in earthquake hazard mitigation. NSF's investment will be returned many-fold through the prevention of earthquake damage that can easily climb into the billions of dollars and the loss of life that never can be measured in financial terms.

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