Assessing the Health of Buildings – USC Viterbi | School of Engineering
Audrey Olivier explores data analytics to identify potential risk factors and avoid future hazards in the structures that house and connect us.
The Surfside, Florida condo building collapse in June signaled a warning about our buildings: we need to be vigilant and clear about proactively monitoring their health. Structural health is a key area that Assistant Professor Audrey Olivier, of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will be researching. This Fall, she will also be bringing a new class.
The class, “Uncertainty Quantification Concepts in Civil and Environmental Engineering,” will introduce students to the field of uncertainty quantification and probabilistic data learning. This aligns with Olivier’s main passion as a researcher: using data to better understand the health of urban systems from buildings to bridges. “My core focus is on how to use data and data analytics to solve some of the problems of civil engineering,” she said.
The course is an introduction for students that Olivier hopes will be part of a larger structures and mechanics program that she is planning to build with other faculty in the department, which could also include a specific course on structural health monitoring.
Uncertainty quantification is important in risk mitigation in terms of urban infrastructure, from ambulance response times to the safety of the spaces in which we work and live. Structural health monitoring is one of Olivier’s key areas of focus. “It’s about using data from a structure to understand if that structure is healthy or if it’s damaged,” she said. “If you can gather enough data from the healthy stages, you can detect changes that indicate deterioration or risk.” The idea, Olivier says, is to use this as a guide for repairs or maintenance to avoid catastrophic failure of the building.