MAE Center Relaunched with New, Multi-hazard Focus
A broader range of natural and human-made hazards is the new focus of the recently revitalized MAE Center, a 17-year-old research center headquartered within CEE at Illinois. Previously geared toward solely earthquake engineering research, the center now derives its acronym, MAE, from its new Multi-hazard Approach to Engineering.
“The MAE Center was established in 1997 by the National Science Foundation as one of three national earthquake engineering research centers,” said Associate Professor Paolo Gardoni, MAE Center director. “Since then, we have expanded the mission to consider multiple hazards around the world. We have also developed a new sustainable business model that will allow the center to continue to be a world leader in the prediction and mitigation of natural and human-made hazards and one of the world’s most comprehensive centers for risk analysis.”
Natural hazards — traditionally defined as potential damaging or destructive natural events that might occur in the future — can have a devastating impact on society. Throughout the world each year, natural disasters kill approximately 80,000 people, render millions homeless, and result in economic losses of $50 billion-$60 billion. All countries face decisions on the level of acceptable risk its citizens should face in the built or modified natural environment. Robust building codes, land-use development restrictions, and environmental preservation policies can all lead to reduced risk exposure to natural hazards, but they exact a cost in terms of economic development and immediate amenities.
“The MAE Center is at the forefront of risk research, developing the most comprehensive and realistic models for risk analysis considering multiple hazards from earthquakes to hurricanes, tornado and fire, and drawing from unique expertise in multiple disciplines,” Gardoni said. “Risk analysis for natural and human-made hazards is particularly challenging due to the rare occurrence of extreme events and because of the complex process of interaction of, in particular, natural events with the natural and the built environment to produce a societal impact. The information generated by the MAE Center allows for better informed decision- and policy-making.”
The MAE Center has created its multi-hazard approach through an emphasis on interdisciplinary research to estimate damage and vulnerability across regional and national networks, and characterize different hazards. The center continues to develop MAEViz, the impact assessment software developed by MAE Center researchers that has been used extensively in the U.S. and internationally.
The center offers and M.S. degree in earthquake engineering, as well as certificates and programs for visiting scholars.
A sponsorship program allows industry and government entities to pay an annual fee and receive benefits including access to MAE Center researchers, input into the direction of the center research and associated research programs, as well as Professional Development Hours (PDHs) and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for employees. In addition, the center works directly with practitioners through sponsored research.
“Because the MAE Center is a unit of the University of Illinois, Research Sponsors work directly with world-class faculty and researchers who are leaders in their field at a fraction of the cost of working with most consulting companies who operate for-profit,” Gardoni said.
The MAE Center is planning two upcoming conferences: The International Conference on the Societal Risk Management of Natural Hazards, April 17-18, on the Urbana campus and the International Conference on Multi-hazard Approaches to Civil Infrastructure Engineering, June 26-27, in Chicago. More information about these and about the MAE Center in general is available at mae.cee.illinois.edu.