Award Abstract #2041666

EAGER: Joint Hazard Mitigation in the Era of COVID-19: Implications for Engineered Structures and Services

See grant description on NSF site

Program Manager:

Joy Pauschke

Active Dates:

Awarded Amount:



David Mendonca

Tracy L Kijewski-Correa

Julio A Ramirez

Ann-Margaret Esnard

Awardee Organization:

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
New York


Engineering (ENG)


Much emphasis during the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has rightly been on traditional public health efforts at controlling it; however, less prominent but no less vital is the role of the built environment itself in both amplifying and suppressing the effects of COVID-19. In the former case, this includes densely-packed, highly centralized physical work spaces, while in the latter this includes adaptive use of decentralized physical work spaces (such as private homes) or virtual ones (as for online learning). The prospect of co-occurrence of natural hazards (such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes) during the COVID-19 regime is likely to strain and possibly confound ongoing and future response efforts. Accordingly, this EArly-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) will explore the role of engineered structures and services within the built environment in order to improve efforts to prevent pandemic joint hazards from becoming societal disasters. This will require basic research in exploring new theories, methods, data and technologies for supporting mitigation, together with collaborations with multiple organizations, including the NSF-supported Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure and its components (https://www.DesignSafe-ci.org). This project will contribute to NSF's role in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP). This project will develop and disseminate a research framework and corresponding research agenda to support improved understanding of the role of the built environment in mitigating or amplifying risks associated with pandemic joint hazards. Case study data will be collected and analyzed, leading to an initial research framework. The research agenda will be developed with close cooperation from a broad and diverse set of researchers and practitioners in the hazards domain, resulting in a set of fundamental methodological, empirical and conceptual challenges around this topic. The project’s potentially radical re-examination of contemporary notions of hazard mitigation and performance-based engineering, as well as its engagement of new interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the relationship between physical and virtual facilities/services in mitigating pandemic joint hazards, represents a high-risk endeavor falling well outside the intellectual boundaries of current civil infrastructure and natural hazards research. The results of this work are expected to spur new lines of inquiry in various branches of engineering, potentially informing advances well beyond this project. Ultimately, this project's holistic and contextualized approach will contribute to the design of a more equitable, functional and safer built environment, well suited to a future that is likely to be marked by highly disruptive pandemics occurring jointly with other hazards.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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