New white paper from EERI provides framework for functional recovery

Update on December 9, 2019: Please note that a revised white paper was published on December 6. This version supersedes the original published in July. Click here to download the new version.


Design for functional recovery is a necessary tool for assessing and improving community resilience. Broadly speaking, design for functional recovery means making two measures of design equally important: safety and recovery time. However, functional recovery concepts and design provisions are still nascent. 

EERI’s new white paper, Functional Recovery: A Conceptual Framework, offers an important first step: an expanded definition and conceptual framework for functional recovery that discusses its application to both buildings and lifeline infrastructure. This paper will inform a new NIST-FEMA working group mandated by recent national legislation and others considering new functional recovery standards and practices, including those involved in the implementation of California Assembly Bill 393, if passed. 

You can expect to hear more about this at the EERI Annual Meeting and National Earthquake Conference in March 2020.


This white paper is in response to new language in the December 2018 reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). This language, suggested to Senator Diane Feinstein by EERI’s PPA in 2018 and passed in the final version of the bill, calls for FEMA and NIST to convene experts to recommend “options for improving the built environment and critical infrastructure to reflect performance goals stated in terms of post-earthquake reoccupancy and functional recovery time” (42 U.S.C. § 7705(b); 2018 Senate Bill 176).

With this governmentally-mandated expert committee now launching, EERI’s PPA set about developing a white paper to outline a multidisciplinary perspective that (1) offers some background and definition of functional recovery in the context of community resilience, (2) identifies four key issue areas to be researched, developed, and discussed to clarify and refine this new performance target, and (3) explores how the current state of practice can be applied to future functional recovery goals. 

As a part of the development process, EERI’s Board of Directors felt that it was critical to forge consensus amongst technical experts. Towards this aim, EERI’s PPA collaborated with the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) on this white paper, and SEAOC has endorsed the structural engineering concepts of the paper. EERI plans to work with SEAOC to engage additional technical experts and organizations in the coming months.