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hazard mitigation work, funded by NSF, developed the knowledge that will
estimate seismic hazard and enhance the reliability and performance of
our infrastructure systems.
The infrastructure includes buildings, bridges, highways, sewers, water
mains and other lifelines on which we all rely when an earthquake disaster
occurs. The research is conducted in the field, in experimental laboratories,
at computers and in cities after an earthquake occurs.
Significant progress is being made in understanding why earthquakes occur
where they do and where future earthquakes may happen. For the first time,the
integration of geologic,
seismic and geodetic measurements
is drawing a consistent picture of the earthquake mechanism that can be
used to lessen damage.
Work is well under way to develop "smart" buildings and bridges
that can automatically adjust to earthquake forces. For example, the base-isolation
building concept, which is somewhat analogous to large ball bearings,
is currently in use at San Francisco's City Hall and at the new San Francisco
International Airport terminal; with more than 1.2 million square feet
of space, this is the largest base-isolated building in the world.
For another San Francisco building, architects and engineers proposed
the use of the Friction Pendulum System (FPS), a method that would enable
the historic 60,000-ton U.S. Court of Appeals building to ride out an
gently swaying back and forth like a pendulum.
FPS can substantially improve the earthquake resistance of new and existing
buildings, without an increase in costs. Because of the inherent simplicity
and versatility of the FPS concept, this new isolation system could become
a major tool for the seismic-resistant design of constructed facilities.
Researchers funded through NSF's Civil and Mechanical Systems programs
and through the GEO Directorate supported Southern California Earthquake
Center (SCEC) are working to predict what will happen when an earthquake
does occur and are trying to forecast potential damage based on the effects
of past quakes.
City planners in Southern California look to SCEC, which also helps to
develop hazard maps that tell where and how frequently earthquakes are
likely to occur and what will be the level of ground shaking.
Additionally, NSF funds an Earthquake Engineering Research Center at three
Universities: University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, the University
of California-Berkeley and the State University of New York-Buffalo. These
and execute integrated research programs that will help the nation to
be ready when the next big quake comes.
In the future, NSF will fund the development of a vast new virtual centerthe
Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulationwhich will link experimenters
and analysts worldwide in an Internet-based system created to share experiments,
results, observations and models.