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Policy Statement 359 - Earthquake Engineering Research Funding

ASCE Policy Statement                                                                                                           359





Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on March 22, 2012
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 4, 2012
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 12, 2012




The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports activities and funding which:

  • Increase basic research in earthquake engineering;
  • Increase applied research, testing, seismic monitoring and accelerated technology transfer of research results; 
  • Adopt and enforce standards for seismic design and construction of new and existing public buildings;
  • Adopt and enforce building codes and zoning provisions to incorporate improved seismic design and construction standards of new and existing buildings and lifelines by state and local governments and by industry;
  • Improve collaborative earthquake preparedness, particularly for building safety, lifeline systems and emergency response;
  • Increase public education about earthquakes and engineering concepts for hazard reduction;
  • Provide for stronger leadership, and improved inter‑agency coordination in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP); 
  • Improve seismic mitigation techniques and lower mitigation costs; and 
  • Improve regional risk assessments, especially which involve multiple hazards, lifeline interdependencies, and ripple effects; and 
  • Develop educational and training programs aimed at upgrading the skills of practicing engineers with the latest techniques and code provisions for earthquake hazard mitigation.



Earthquakes are among the most devastating of all natural hazards.  To find methods to reduce the devastation NEHRP, enacted in 1977, funds earthquake related activities of the U.S. Geological Survey, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology and Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Despite continuing need, appropriations for NEHRP have decreased significantly in real dollars since the late 1970's while the focus of mitigation activities has expanded to protect economic viability and create disaster resilient communities. Therefore, other innovative earthquake engineering and related research programs need to be initiated and funded.



Earthquake occurrence in the United States is not restricted to any single geographical area.  All or parts of 39 states are within zones where the probability of an earthquake occurring is great.  Recent research indicates that areas in the eastern, central, and Pacific northwest of the United States are at greater risk of earthquake occurrence than earlier evidence indicated.

Recent events substantiate that many public buildings cannot survive a major earthquake.  In many cases, federal buildings are less earthquake‑resistant than nearby privately‑owned buildings even though their post event operation is more important.

Because of funding cuts, programs to develop safer and more disaster resilient buildings and other structures, including lifelines, have been reduced and existing research facilities have been underutilized.  Some excellent earthquake researchers have left the field.  There is also evidence that much of the engineering research that has been accomplished under NEHRP has not been applied effectively.  There is inadequate transfer of findings to those who help communities prepare for earthquakes.  Funds have not been available to help localities improve building codes and zoning provisions in order to improve building safety.


ASCE Policy Statement 359 
First Approved in 1989