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Saad receives NSF grant to fortify coastal cities against natural disasters | ECE | Virginia Tech

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Saad receives NSF grant to fortify coastal cities against natural disasters

Storm about to hit a coastal city in the evening.
Coastal cities are critical for the global economy, yet they are so frequently exposed to natural disasters. ECE's Walid Saad is working to protect critical infrastructure by designing new computational frameworks.

ECE's Walid Saad, in collaboration with civil engineers from the University of Miami, received a two-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to design new computational, mathematical, and simulation frameworks to protect the critical infrastructure of coastal cities against natural disasters.

The project, supported by the Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes program, is entitled "Collaborative Research: A Human-Centered Computational Framework for Urban and Community Design of Resilient Coastal Cities."

Coastal cities are critical for the global economy, yet they are so frequently exposed to hurricanes, flooding, sea level rise, and other natural disasters. When infrastructure -- water, energy, sewer, and transportation systems as well as the built environment -- is compromised, the well-being of a city's residents is in jeopardy. Current emergency plans that spell out how coastal cities can endure and recover from natural disasters have no comprehensive strategy for infrastructure.

Walid Saad and co-principle investigator Anamaria Bukvic from the Department of Geography are designing new frameworks to address these issues.

Resilience paradigms need to explicitly account for the complex, large-scale physical and social systems of a coastal city's infrastructure, said Saad.

"Although there has been a surge in literature that assesses the physical and economic damage of climate change in coastal regions, these works remain largely qualitative and are restricted to each infrastructure in isolation," he said.

So Saad and his team will be filling that gap by creating frameworks for "anticipatory resilience" -- meaning the designs will be tailored to, and directly installed in, the built environment of coastal cities.

The meta-models will account for urban and community design as well as the socio-economic characteristics of each city. By coupling the meta-models with a computational framework, the researchers will build an advanced simulation and optimization framework for enhancing the resilience of a coastal city's critical infrastructure systems.

In collaboration with the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, the researchers will be testing the frameworks on site, furthering the direct and tangible societal impact.