About the Council
Established as a Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences in 1979, the Building Seismic Safety Council (BSSC) deals with the complex technical, regulatory, social and economic issues involved in developing and promulgating building earthquake risk mitigation provisions that are national in scope. The BSSC is a voluntary organizational membership body representing a wide variety of building community interests. It brings together the needed expertise and relevant public and private interests to resolve issues related to the seismic safety of the built environment through authoritative guidance and assistance backed by a broad consensus. BSSC’s fundamental purpose is to enhance public safety by providing a national forum that fosters improved seismic planning, design, construction and regulation in the building community.
To fulfill its mission, the BSSC: (1) evaluates research findings, practices and field investigations to develop seismic safety provisions; (2) encourages and promotes the adoption of provisions by the national standards and model building codes; (3) provides ongoing education for structural design professionals through training materials, webinars, workshops and colloquia; (4) provides education outreach on seismic design and construction to the non-technical building community and the general public; and (5) advises government bodies on their programs of research, development and implementation.
In 1977, the U.S. Congress passed the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act to plan effective ways to protect the lives of building occupants during an earthquake and mitigate the impact of such disasters on the national economy. The law established the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and designated four federal agencies to tackle seismic issues: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). BSSC, under contract with FEMA, develops and maintains a key resource — the NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provisions for New Buildings and Other Structures. The Provisions are used as the primary resource for the professional design standard ASCE/SEI 7 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures. The 2009 edition of the Provisions,FEMA P-750, developed as a knowledge-based resource document intended to translate research results into engineering design practice, was largely adopted in ASCE/SEI 7-10. The 2015 edition of the Provisions, FEMA P-1050, has been similarly adopted in ASCE/SEI 7-16.
BSSC’s success with the Provisions is due to the efforts of its organizational members and volunteer experts, which include: engineers, seismologists, architects, academics, researchers, code officials, manufacturers and suppliers. The Provisions are developed by a Provisions Update Committee of seismic experts that identify and apply the most advanced seismic technology available. The committee is supported by expert issue teams that address specific aspects of seismic design methodology and construction. Together they ensure that state-of-the-art seismic requirements reflect lessons learned from results and findings of recent research projects, problem-focused studies and post-earthquake investigation reports conducted by various professional organizations, research institutes, universities, material industries and the NEHRP agencies. Through a balloting process, organizational members ensure that updates to the Provisions account for the interests of the building community.
BSSC’s mission to improve the regulation of seismic-resistant planning, design and construction is accomplished through the Codes Resource Support Committee (CRSC). This group of volunteers develops, submits, monitors and supports code changes, particularly in the International Building Code (IBC), based on the most recent edition of the Provisions.
With the NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provisions as its basis, the BSSC develops educational, training materials and explanatory information to support the structural engineering community. Webinars, workshops and colloquia are held to explain the principles behind the Provisions. They describe the types of structures, materials and specific seismic load resisting elements, and illustrate how to apply the new requirements and handle critical issues when conducting seismic design of structural systems.
Understanding the Provisions as a basis for seismic-related codes and standards is important to many others outside the technical community. To support this transfer of knowledge, the BSSC provides webinars and maintains the publication, Earthquake-Resistant Design Concepts, FEMA P-749, for use by builders, elected officials, building regulatory officials, industry representatives, decision-makers in the insurance and finance communities, individual business owners, other members of the building community and the public. The document provides a nontechnical explanation of the concepts of the earthquake-resistant design and requirements of the Provisions.
Periodically, the BSSC advises government bodies on their programs of seismic research, development, and implementation. For example, in 2012-2013, the BSSC prepared for NIST the Development of NIST Measurement Science R&D Roadmap: Earthquake Risk Reduction in Buildings, NIST GCR 13-917-23 to assist NIST in planning future research efforts related to seismic safety for new and existing buildings over the next eight years. The BSSC also supported NIST on behalf of the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction (ICSSC) in development of the Standards of Seismic Safety for Existing Federally Owned and Leased Buildings, ICSSC Recommended Practice 8 (RP 8), NIST GCR 11-917-12. As part of a continuing effort to achieve seismic safety in existing Federal buildings, this Standards document provides Federal agencies with minimum and extended standards for the evaluation and mitigation of seismic risks.
BSSC's activities are structured to provide all interested entities with the opportunity to participate. The BSSC is committed to assessment of advances in engineering knowledge based on design experience and evaluation of earthquake impacts, to lasting technical improvement of seismic design provisions that are implemented in design practice, and to the nation’s model building codes and standards.
Should you have any additional questions about the Building Seismic Safety Council that were not answered on this site or you would like to comment on the site, please contact:
Philip J. Schneider, AIA
National Institute of Building Sciences
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005-4905
(202) 289-1092 Fax