Funding for this study is provided through National Science Foundation CMMI grants 1452708, 1452725, and 1454675 for a collaboration between Colorado State University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Washington. The opinions contained herein represent the opinions of the authors and not necessarily NSF. This support is gratefully acknowledged.


Strong winds such as those produced by tornadoes and hurricanes have resulted in billions of dollars in damage annually and continue to threaten the safety of building occupants. Much of the U.S. that is susceptible to these hazards also has expansive soils; slab-on-grade construction in such areas is commonplace. A new type of modular residential building system consisting of precast concrete elements combined with light-frame wood sub-systems, including a basement, is proposed to

  1. provide life safety for occupants by enabling them to shelter in the basement;
  2. utilize recycled sustainable backfill that will improve sustainability while decreasing the chance of expansive soil damage to the above-grade portion of the building;
  3. decrease the risk of tornado and hurricane wind damage by providing a stiffer and stronger living area through the addition of precast concrete elements.

The exact building design will be optimized by considering how a building should be designed such that it contributes as much as possible to community resiliency while maintaining a prescribed level of sustainability; and while keeping costs associated with homeownership at a reasonable level. While an integrated building system of precast concrete and light-frame wood components is not the norm in the current construction market, it represents an opportunity to investigate a new type of system that may reduce the cost of single and multi-family home ownership over the life cycle of the building and, at the same time, improve the quality of life from a community perspective.

In this project, the attributes that make a community resilient will be de-aggregated to the building level to facilitate development of the SFSE system through a process that seeks to optimize building performance with respect to resilience and sustainability goals. The resulting building performance criteria will take into consideration common construction practices, while balancing community preferences with individual-level risk perceptions. The optimization will involve multiple objectives and constraints associated with specified resilience and sustainability attributes. The research hypothesis is that it is possible to develop risk-informed performance criteria for individual resilient and sustainable buildings exposed to a spectrum of natural hazards that can be matched to community goals; that building attributes can be identified and parameterized to support this general risk-informed decision framework; and that the risk-informed decision framework supporting these performance criteria for individual buildings will enable enhanced community resilience and sustainability by targeting public and private investments to manage life-cycle costs.

The fundamental contributions of this project are its:

The intellectual merit is that the de-aggregation of the attributes that make a community resilient and a building sustainable will enable a decision framework that addresses the paradoxical issue of single building optimization for community objectives and leads to practical performance-based criteria for an innovative SFSE system. The societal broader impacts are that this will facilitate a new generation of improved performance-based building standards which will focus on achieving community resilience and sustainability goals. Four Ph.D. students and several undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines will work on the project and gain an understanding of resiliency and sustainability, research, and interdisciplinary collaboration. In line with the NSB Keystone Recommendation for engineering education, a racially and ethnically diverse group of female and male students will be engaged in a virtual collaboration for student-centered learning where they will learn about the concepts of resilience and sustainability.