Mary C. Comerio

Term: 2017


Mary Comerio is a Professor in the Graduate School at UC Berkeley and a faculty member in Architecture since 1978, serving at Chair from 2006 to 2009.
As an architect, she has designed numerous public- and private facilities but her career focus has been on seismic safety for housing and post-disaster recovery. She is the author of numerous publications, bringing together engineering and retrofit technologies, economic impacts and policy guidance.

From 1998 through 2002, Comerio led the Disaster Resistant University Initiative, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and UC Berkeley. Comerio used the UC Berkeley campus as a model for a national program for evaluating hazards and developing plans for strengthening buildings and post-disaster teaching and research resumption.

She conducts interdisciplinary research with colleagues at multiple universities through the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center, and led the Building Systems team with Prof. Helmut Krawinkler of Stanford University. Comerio developed the “downtime” component of loss models used in Performance Based Earthquake Engineering methods. She has recently completed work on a National Science Foundation (NSF) Grand Challenge research project to mitigate the risk of collapse in concrete buildings.

Comerio has been a Visiting Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California (2010) and an Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury (2003, 2013). She has worked on post-disaster recovery for the United Nations Environment Program in China and Haiti, and the United Nations Development Program in Chile. In May 2011, she received the Green Star Award from the United Nations for her work in post-disaster reconstruction. In May 2013, she received the U.C. Berkeley, Chancellor’s Public Service Award for Research in the Public Interest.

Comerio is a past member of the EERI Board of Directors, past member of the Honors Committee, current member of the LFE committee, and a member of the EERI reconnaissance teams to Umbria and L’Aquila and leader of the teams to Christchurch. In addition to her EERI activities, she is currently on the GEER advisory board and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) Engineering Criteria Review Board.


It is an honor to be asked to stand for election as the Institute’s president. I want to thank the nominating committee for expressing its confidence in me, and ask you for your support.

EERI is a unique professional organization—it is a place where people come together from a variety of backgrounds to think and talk about earthquake engineering, disaster loss reduction and resilience. EERI is a true “community of interests” and it provides an opportunity for anyone interested in earthquakes to share ideas and to learn from others. It is also an extended family of colleagues and friends; a place to create an intersection between professional work and broader community goals. EERI gives members an opportunity to participate in Learning from Earthquakes reconnaissance missions and special projects like the World Housing Encyclopedia, the Concrete Coalition workshops and technical seminars.

My vision for the organization is to maintain our strengths and broaden our audience. We need to reach out to and include more young people—engineers, planners, architects, policy wonks and others—in our membership, to keep the conversation lively and current. We also need to reach out to and collaborate with other professions whose work can influence long-range polices for seismic safety and hazard assessment. Overall, we need to focus on the challenges of “resilient cities” and use our skills to focus on the technical and policy issues required to make our cities robust, sustainable and safe.

In addition, EERI should also continue to grow our international outreach and presence. Our mission—reducing earthquake risk—is a global enterprise and it includes engaging our international members, coordinating with sister organizations and developing meaningful projects on which we can share expertise and support. After so many devastating earthquakes in recent years in China, Haiti, New Zealand, Italy, Chile and Japan, we have much to learn, from these events and from our colleagues around the globe. EERI is already developing a new kind of reconnaissance mission—focused on disaster recovery. From that, we have opportunities to build databases that are shared among all nations and organizations focused on earthquake safety. This will serve our core mission and ultimately it will serve our members who value EERI for our cross-disciplinary knowledge and access to the best technical data on earthquake safety.