NIST renews $20 million partnership with CSU community resilience center of excellence

CSU resilience center logo

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has renewed a $20 million partnership for a Colorado State University engineering center designed to improve community resilience planning for natural hazards. The funding will extend the center of excellence’s work for another five years, allowing its researchers to apply the modeling system they’ve developed to actual communities.

How well and how quickly a community recovers following a natural disaster depends on complex interactions involving physical infrastructure and socioeconomic systems. Over the past five years, the Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning created the first quantitative assessment of the disparate physical, social and economic factors necessary to prepare for, withstand and recover from natural hazards.

The first five years

In collaboration with 12 partner universities, the CSU-based center built a computational system for modeling communities to study the effect of natural hazards on response and recovery. The center’s multidisciplinary team quantified the complex factors that contribute to resilience, developing a tool called IN-CORE, or the Interconnected Networked Community Resilience Modeling Environment.

“The center of excellence has made great strides in the science of measuring community resilience,” said CSU Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor John van de Lindt, who co-directs the center with CSU Professor Bruce Ellingwood and East Carolina University Economics Professor Jamie Brown Kruse. “Prior to the center’s work over the last five years, resilience was less quantitative.”

Engineers and social scientists previously had studied resilience separately, from distinctly different disciplinary angles, but the center approached it comprehensively by forming interdisciplinary teams. It brought together more than 90 researchers, programmers, NIST collaborators, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students, with expertise in engineering, economics, data and computing, and social sciences.

“Center investigators were among the first to achieve a truly interdisciplinary approach to community resilience planning and assessment,” Ellingwood said.

The next five years

“With the basic science well underway as part of the computational environment IN-CORE and its supporting databases, it is now time to put science to work for society,” van de Lindt said.

As the center moves from science creation to implementation, it will partner with four to six communities to better understand what they need to make resilience decisions when planning for natural disasters. Using the knowledge they gain from these partnerships, the team will refine their models as they develop the next release of IN-CORE in 2021, and the final release a few years later.

“Ultimately, our goal is for communities to understand the resilience planning choices they have prior to making them through measurement science,” van de Lindt said. “Community decisions always will be based on judgment, but the ability to inform decisions with metrics that are proven, reliable and reproducible will be the center’s biggest contribution to society.”