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EDITORS: UC-Berkeley has also prepared a release on this announcement. For a copy contact Jesus Mena at (510) 642-0319 or

Stanford will participate in new earthquake engineering center

Stanford University is one of nine universities that will participate in a new West Coast earthquake engineering center investigating ways to reduce the cost and casualties from major earthquakes in urban areas.

The new organization, called the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center, is one of three such centers to which the National Science Foundation has just awarded $2 million per year apiece for five years to act as national academic centers of excellence in the field.

The other centers are the Midwestern Earthquake Engineering Research Center headquartered at the University of Illinois-Urbana and the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York-Buffalo.

PEER's focus will be on research designed to help reduce earthquake hazards in large urban areas located in active earthquake regions, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Progress in reducing earthquake damage in these locations has become significantly more urgent since the 1994 Northridge and 1995 Kobe earthquakes. Direct property losses from these two moderate earthquakes are estimated at $30 billion and $150 billion, respectively. In larger earthquakes expected in the major cities in the Western United States, the price tag could be even larger. PEER will set up a network of researchers who will link with representatives from business, industry, and state and local governments in its effort to make urban environments less vulnerable to earthquakes.

"The PEER Center provides us with the opportunity to pool resources and expertise to jointly address the research and educational issues important to reducing the risk of earthquakes in urban areas in a cost-effective manner," said Helmut Krawinkler, the John A. Blume Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford and a member of the center's governing board. "The dollar amounts allocated to PEER by NSF and the state are not large. So rapid progress will be made only if business and industry become committed partners in this endeavor."

The new center will be headquartered at the University of California-Berkeley. It will have an annual budget of $4 million, including $2 million in matching funds from the State of California, Washington State and the University of California. In anticipation of the award, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. already has committed $2.4 million to the center to establish a utilities research component. PEER leaders expect other industry sources to make similar investments.

"Our proposal was to establish a multi-disciplinary center that bridges the gaps between traditional earthquake disciplines such as seismology and engineering, and brings in other disciplines such as political science and economics," said center director Jack Moehle, professor of civil engineering at the University of California-Berkeley.

The universities that form the core of PEER are Stanford, five University of California campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Diego), the University of Southern California, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Washington.

Two Stanford professors will participate in the management of the new center: In addition to Krawinkler, Anne Kirmedjian, also a professor of civil and environmental engineering, will serve on the research committee that designs the projects that the center will support. Krawinkler is also the president of the non-profit organization California Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREe), which played a major role in organizing the PEER consortium and developing the California proposal.


By David F. Salisbury

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