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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

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Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

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Leading Experts Present Emerging Developments in
Multi-Hazard Engineering at AEI-MCEER Symposium


An expert panel (from left: Vilas Mujumdar, Bruce Ellingwood and Joseph Englot) discussed “Identifying the Path(s) Forward for Multi-Hazard Engineering”

Over 115 structural engineers, architects, faculty researchers, and students convened in New York City for the Symposium on Emerging Developments in Multi-Hazard Engineering, held September 18, 2007 at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium. The event was jointly organized by the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) of ASCE and MCEER. It also received generous sponsorship from the Steel Institute of New York.

The symposium was co-chaired by Mohammed Ettouney, Weidlinger Associates, Inc. and Past President of AEI, and Michel Bruneau, MCEER, University at Buffalo.

It featured 13 presentations by nationally-recognized researchers and practitioners that highlighted recent advances in the emerging field of multi-hazard engineering. These included perspectives and solutions for protecting infrastructure from specific hazards, as well as the potential to adapt existing design measures for multi-hazard protection of the built environment. Other topics included:

ettouney at podium

Mohammed Ettouney's presentation focused on the need to consider design for multiple hazards as an optimization problem

kiremedjian at podium

Anne Kiremedjian presented "A Framework for Risk Assessment of Infrastructure in a Multi-Hazard Environment"

grigoriou on stage

Mircea Grigoriou advocated moving beyond the current hazard-specific method toward a broader approach

One of the most important outcomes of the symposium was the clarification of what is meant by multi-hazard engineering. Most of the speakers provided insight into their own understanding, pointing to aspects that uniquely define this emerging field. The consensus was that the field is about simultaneously addressing all hazards as a problem of optimization under constraints, rather than studying infrastructure systems under several hazards acting simultaneously or addressing individual hazards sequentially.

The range of hazards considered includes natural hazards (e.g. earthquakes, floods, and windstorms), accidental hazards, and malevolent action. Concurrent hazard events and interdependent hazard events such as fire following an earthquake, flood following a hurricane, or tsunami following an earthquake are addressed as special cases of importance.

The motivation for such an approach is the need for a rational basis for decision-making which will make it possible to identify which risks should be mitigated first; select the best mitigation options; and define priorities in a context of limited resources.

The symposium opened with a presentation by G. Edward Gibson, Jr., 2007 AEI President, who championed AEI’s mission, which promotes a multidisciplinary approach and excellence in practice, education, research of architectural engineering.

Co-organizers Amar Chaker, AEI Director, and Michel Bruneau, MCEER Director, followed with presentations that emphasized the strong interests that their organizations have in multi-hazard engineering. Both outlined their strategies in this growing area, and gave an overview of the topics to be covered, as well as the challenges to be addressed in presentations to follow.

Other presenters were: Sreenivas Alampalli, New York State Department of Transportation; Bruce Ellingwood, Georgia Institute of Technology; Mircea Grigoriu, Cornell University; Anne Kiremedjian, Stanford University and Chair of ASCE’s Council on Disaster Risk Management; Paul Mlakar, U.S. Army Research and Development Center; Vilas Mujumdar, National Science Foundation; Rae Zimmerman, New York University; Milagros Kennett, FEMA/Department of Homeland Security; Joe Englot, HNTB Corporation; and Mohammed Ettouney, Weidlinger Associates, Inc.

A lively panel discussion between three of the speakers (Ellingwood, Englot and Mujumdar) and the attendees concluded the event and provided the elements of a roadmap to tap the potential of multi-hazard engineering.

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