Credit: J.K. Nakata, U.S. Geological Survey
More than 75 million Americans in 39 states live in towns and cities at risk for earthquake devastation.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) created the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) to give researchers the tools to learn how earthquakes and tsunami impact the buildings, bridges, utility systems and other critical components of today's society.
NEES is a network of 15 large-scale, experimental sites that feature such advanced tools as shake tables, centrifuges that simulate earthquake effects, unique laboratories, a tsunami wave basin and field-testing equipment. All are linked to a centralized data pool and earthquake simulation software, bridged together by the high-speed Internet2. The new NEESgrid system, a communications web that uses collaborative tools and tele-presence technologies, allows off-site researchers to interact in real time with any of the networked sites.
With these tools, engineers and students from all parts of the country can collaborate on multi-site experiments using simulators that generate earthquake effects strong enough to bring down full-sized buildings.
From that knowledge will come a new set of rules from which engineers can design structures and materials that will better withstand earthquake forces.
NEES will operate from Oct. 1, 2004, through Sept. 30, 2014. The nonprofit NEES Consortium, Inc. (NEESinc) will operate and coordinate the network's activities. NEESinc provides open access to the 15 sites by allocating research time at the facilities while leading training, education and outreach activities and establishing ties with U.S. and international partners.
The Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE), under an NSF development award, led the project to establish NEESinc. Partners in the consortium’s development included the Civil Engineering Research Foundation--the research arm of the American Society of Civil Engineers--the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, faculty members from academic institutions across the United States and practicing engineers.
An executive director and a board of directors guide the public-benefit NEESinc. Those involved in the organization's planning, leadership and management broadly represent the earthquake engineering community and provide expertise in areas such as organizational planning, earthquake engineering research, information technology, simulation and assessment.
A pioneering cyberinfrastructure known as NEESgrid connects earthquake engineering researchers throughout the United States and the world. Integrating real-life and computational simulations, NEESgrid software brings together various components to share knowledge and enables researchers to breach traditional disciplinary and geographical barriers to design innovative, safer civil infrastructure.
Credit: FEMA News Photo
NEESgrid software represents the culmination of several years of effort to develop a national, virtual "collaboratory" for earthquake engineering. With NEESgrid, geographically distributed teams efficiently plan, perform and publish earthquake engineering research, ultimately producing increasingly complex, comprehensive and accurate design and performance models of at-risk civil infrastructure.
The core features include tele-presence services that allow users to remotely observe and control an experiment; streaming data services that transfer data to remote users; and preliminary data and metadata management services that will ultimately allow data storage and retrieval from the NEESgrid repository. Users access this collaborative environment through a Web-based, customizable user interface that integrates a suite of tools for experiment planning, execution, analysis and publication.
OpenSees, a software framework for computational simulation of structural and geotechnical systems, provides the computational simulation capabilities in NEESgrid. FedeasLab serves as a toolbox for nonlinear structural analysis for Matlab software. The NEESgrid Simulation Portal allows users to remotely access OpenSees.
NEESgrid is the product of close collaboration among a broad spectrum of civil engineering departments, computational science centers, national laboratories and private-sector partners, led by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the University of Illinois Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Development partners included Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, Washington University at St. Louis, the University of California at Berkeley, Mississippi State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Creare, Inc.
The NEES Cyberinfrastructure Center (NEESit), led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center in partnership with Oregon State University, the University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, and Creare, Inc., will oversee NEES operations and maintenance.
Three core objectives for NEESit are:
- develop a distance-independent environment for collaboration that fosters large-scale, integrated, earthquake engineering studies required to address many of the complex problems of earthquake engineering
- build an end-to-end data environment that captures, manages and preserves the vast amounts of experimental data and associated metadata, and ensures that the information is readily accessible to NEES's research, education and practitioner communities
- ensure that earthquake engineering researchers have easy access to high-end computational resources and visualization and simulation capabilities
George E. Brown, Jr.
The NEES project was named in memory of the late George E. Brown, Jr., former chairman of the House Science Committee and a champion of engineering and science in Congress for more than 30 years. Representative Brown authored the legislation creating the interagency National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program in 1977, which in turn, led to the creation of the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.