Sandia software acts as a rampart

Software developed by Sandia National Laboratories may soon help the US General Services Administration (GSA) assess risks such as terrorism to the federal buildings it manages.

The software, dubbed RAMPART (Risk Assessment Method – Property Analysis and Ranking Tool), is said to be the first risk-based approach to building management.

GSA turned to Sandia, a US Department of Energy national laboratory, in mid-1998 following the Oklahoma City bombing and several devastating natural disasters to create a screening-level software program that could analyse the risk of potential threats to buildings.

‘Traditionally buildings have been constructed to code, which pays attention to disasters that have already happened,’ said Regina Hunter, RAMPART technical lead. ‘RAMPART looks to the future probability of events occurring and what there is to lose if those events take place.’

The software development is part of Sandia’s Architectural Surety program, which uses technology to make buildings safer in a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

While the initial RAMPART software was developed specifically to analyse risks for GSA managed buildings, it could easily be adopted for other critical facilities such as embassies, school systems, and large municipalities.

‘We think RAMPART could have wide application for other government agencies and in the private sector,’ said Rudy Matalucci, RAMPART project manager.

In developing RAMPART, the Sandia team built equations for threatening events – natural hazards including hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, winter storms, and floods as well as crime and terrorism – and information on the building’s location, construction type, numbers of people housed and types of activities underway.

The equations could then determine the risk for an event at a particular building.

RAMPART consists of a user interface, a threatening events database, and an expert system of rules that embody the GSA’s knowledge about buildings and tenants and Sandia’s knowledge of risk analysis. Using the software, it will take a GSA staff member less than two hours to complete a building risk analysis.

‘All users have to do is point and click their way through the assessment,’ Hunter said. ‘They will be asked basic questions about the building – location, construction, security monitoring, etc. – and the computer program will do the rest.’

She added that the interface does not request any information that a GSA property manager can’t reasonably be expected to have access to.

For example, the user is not asked to evaluate risk or to provide data on the probability of natural hazards in the area because RAMPART contains this information in its database.

After completing a building assessment, users learn whether the building is considered to be a very high, high, medium, low, or negligible risk.

They receive additional information about the risk factors in the form of a bar chart that shows the risk for the consequences analysed for each hazard. The graphical presentation allows the user to see and distinguish at a glance both the infrequent high risks and the frequent low risks that the building presents.