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Performance Based Engineering

Performance-based engineering is the design, evaluation and construction of engineered facilities that meet — as economically as possible — the uncertain future demands of owner-users and nature.

The premise is that performance levels and objectives can be quantified, that performance can be predicted analytically, and that the cost of improved performance can be evaluated to allow rational trade-offs based on life-cycle considerations rather than construction costs alone.

Performance-based engineering offers great professional opportunities for producing better facilities faster and more cost effectively. It forms the foundation for strategies to revitalize of our decaying infrastructure and presents challenges for the utilization of emerging technologies to monitor the health of existing facilities through sensor technology and to control performance with active control systems and smart materials.

Performance  Based Engineering

In the academic environment, performance-based engineering offers great opportunities for research and teaching of the processes involved in the design and construction of engineered systems whose performance can be quantified, monitored and controlled in a manner that responds to the diverse needs and objectives of owners and society. Adoption of performance-based engineering concepts requires major changes in the thinking, practice and education of structural engineers. Perhaps most important is a shift away from the dependence on empirical and experience-based conventions, and toward a design and assessment process more firmly rooted in a scientifically oriented approach that emphasizes accurate characterization and prediction of structural behavior.

Performance-based engineering is the central theme of many of the research activities of Stanford’s Structural Engineering and Geomechanics Program. Our students and faculty are researching performance-based design methodologies and fundamental issues of stochastic modeling of loads and resistance. They do pioneering work in probabilistic loss modeling of structural and nonstructural building systems and transportation networks, explore emerging technologies for health monitoring and active control, and remain at the forefront of developing the computational approaches needed to predict performance. The newly established Design/Construction Integration Program provides extensive lateral support on constructability issues and the performance of nonstructural systems.

Much of our specific research on performance-based engineering focuses on earthquakes, but we are also researching wind and ocean wave hazards and performance-based fire engineering. Our global objective is to develop knowledge and tools for the assessment, management and mitigation of the risks associated with these hazards.