NHERI Facilities Support Research in New NSF Climate Change Initiative


In September 2021, NSF released a Dear Colleague Letter (21-124) (DCL) urging the science and engineering research communities to develop approaches that address climate change and that directly work toward the nation’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Participating in this DCL is the Engineering for Civil Infrastructure (ECI) program, within the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Industrial Innovation (CMMI), which supports research using the NSF-funded facilities in the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure, NHERI, as well as other programs in CMMI or other NSF Directorates and Divisions.

The new NSF initiative, called Critical Aspects of Sustainability (CAS): Innovative Solutions to Climate Change, encourages the research community to submit specific types of proposals to NSF core programs. NSF envisions these proposals will lay the foundation for disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and answer fundamental questions related to novel approaches and solutions to climate change. Proposed project descriptions should clearly articulate climate relevance and contribute to new approaches regarding innovative solutions that address climate change mitigation and adaptation. Among the topics considered by this DCL are:

  • Adaptation related to infrastructure, hazards, coastal protection, and building design
  • Social dynamics impacting and resulting from climate change adaptation strategies

NSF seeks ideas focused on short- and long-term sustainable solutions that identify specific gaps in existing research approaches.

As is standard for NSF proposals, submissions addressing the NSF CAS initiative will be reviewed by the appropriate NSF program in one of the participating divisions or offices. Prospective principal investigators must send an email inquiry to prior to submission to ascertain whether the proposal is suitable for the CAS: Innovative Solutions to Climate Change DCL and for the specific program or programs in one of the participating divisions or offices.

NHERI Network Components

With their specialized focus on natural hazards, NSF-supported NHERI facilities are ready-made for proposals that address research under the CAS initiative. NHERI network facilities include eight experimental laboratories with centralized scheduling, a computational modeling and simulation center, and components supporting field research and social science initiatives. In addition, NHERI’s comprehensive cyberinfrastructure contains a rich and growing collection of datasets and research instruments that may be leveraged in CAS proposals. The NHERI Five-Year Science Plan (January 2020) offers a range of research topics that could benefit from the use of NHERI resources and are relevant to the ECI program and to the CAS initiative.

NHERI DesignSafe, the cyberinfrastructure component of the NHERI network, supports research across all different facets of natural hazards. Based at the University of Texas, Austin, DesignSafe supports a range of research activities within its Workspace, including data sharing/publishing in the Data Depot data repository, and data analytics, computational simulation, and visualization with its tools and applications. These tools take advantage of cloud resources, including high-performance computing (HPC) resources available from the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2022469)

The NHERI CONVERGE facility, based at the University of Colorado Boulder, has established valuable training modules, protocols, data sharing capabilities, as well as other resources for interdisciplinary, convergence-oriented research, which is strongly encouraged by the CAS initiative. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #1841338)

NHERI at UC Davis is home to the Center for Geotechnical Modeling, a facility that provides access to a 9-m radius centrifuge for hypergravity experimentation and scaled modeling of geotechnical, lifeline, and coastal infrastructure subjected to windstorm, flood, landslide, and other loadings exacerbated by climate change. The large model sizes that are possible on the 9 m centrifuge enable the holistic levels of detail necessary for evaluating emerging strategies to improve sustainability, including alternative infrastructure configurations and novel remediation methods. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #1520581)

NHERI at Oregon State University, home to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, provides experimental equipment and staff support for two unique hydraulic facilities — the Large Wave Flume and Directional Wave Basin. This facility supports coastal studies related to the impacts of climate change, including hurricane surge and waves, on the built and natural environment. For facility details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2037914)

The NHERI Natural Hazard and Disaster Reconnaissance Facility (RAPID) enables state-of-the-art field collection of critical scientific, engineering, and social science data following natural disasters, including events that arise as secondary or tertiary aspects of climate-change-influenced storms and droughts. The RAPID Facility provides NSF-supported research teams with the hardware, software, and support services needed to collect, process, and assess perishable interdisciplinary data. The facility also offers training and educational services and in-field deployment assistance. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2130997)

NHERI at Florida International University (FIU) offers the twelve-fan Wall of Wind (WOW), a large wind simulation facility that provides unique experimental capabilities for wind engineering. The facility enables large- and full-scale testing of building systems, components, and other structures in wind speeds up to and including hurricane Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale (157 mph and above), with a wind-driven rain option. The facility provides access and expertise to users across the nation, including annual user workshops, to support frontier research and education. The WOW facility capabilities enable high-fidelity measurements to provide experimental data for validating computational and numerical simulations, thereby reducing future reliance on physical testing. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2037899)

NHERI at University of Florida, home to the Powell Family Structures and Materials Laboratory, provides a Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel (BLWT) that enables research to understand wind loads on civil infrastructure through the physical simulation of the effects of extreme wind events (hurricanes, tornadoes, and gust fronts) on scaled models in a precisely controlled environment. The facility offers a range of user services to support research project development and implementation. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2037725)

NHERI at University of Texas (NHERI@UTexas) contributes unique, large-scale, hydraulically controllable mobile shakers and associated instrumentation to study and develop novel, in-situ testing methods that can be used to evaluate the needs of existing infrastructure as well as optimize the design of future infrastructure. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2037900.)

NHERI at Lehigh University provides a Real-time Multidirectional (RTMD) simulation facility with large-scale experimental testing capabilities coupled with computational modeling and staff expertise. These resources enable large-scale, multi-directional, cyber-physical experiments to be performed in real-time to investigate the effects of climate change on civil infrastructure systems. Dedicated test-beds and a multidirectional shake table are among its resources. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2037771)

The NHERI SimCenter, headquartered at UC Berkeley, provides state-of-the-art open-source scientific workflows for the computational modeling and simulation of the effects of natural hazards on the built environment. The open-source computational workflows are extensible and intentionally designed to incorporate new, user-defined modules that consider climate change effects and sustainability metrics for regional simulations of natural hazard effects on the built environment and communities. In addition, the SimCenter provides user support and educational workshops. Find details at (NSF Award #2131111)

NHERI at UC San Diego provides the 6-DOF Large High-Performance Outdoor Shake Table (LHPOST6), a unique facility that enables research for the advancement of science, technology, and practice in earthquake engineering. Testing of infrastructure at large scale under realistic multi-DOF seismic excitation is essential to fully understand the behavior of our built environment, including infrastructure required to respond to climate change such as sustainable/renewable energy production sources (e.g., wind turbines and arrays of solar panels), innovative structural and nonstructural systems designed to reduce the carbon footprint, and circular materials for sustainable future infrastructures and smart building solutions. Find details at (NSF Award #1520904)

The NHERI Network Coordination Office (NCO), located in the Purdue University Discovery Park, provides governance for NHERI Network facilities, ensuring transparent user-access, experimental facilities’ user-safety, and high-quality user experiences. The NCO is responsible for the NHERI Science Plan, a community-driven guide to natural hazards research – including approaches for mitigating damage from natural hazards aggravated by climate change. The NCO also leads network-wide efforts in educational programming and technology transfer. For details and contact information, see (NSF Award #2129782)