Comerio, Mary

Mary Comerio

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Years of practice


Related websites


California, commercial, institutional, residential


Mary Comerio is the Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of California Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Mrs. Comerio joined the faculty in 1978 after completing Master’s Degrees in Architecture and Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to her role in academia, Mrs. Comerio has designed many public and private facilities primarily dealing with market-rate and affordable housing, commercial and public buildings. She is a leading authority on post-disaster reconstruction, and her research on the cost and benefits relating to seismic rehabilitation of existing buildings has been widely published.

Most notably, Mrs. Comerio’s research for both the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 1980’s resulted in the establishment of a precedent for evaluating the economic impacts of building codes for existing structures. The subsequent implementation of key policies for seismic risk reduction ensued, and both a $250 million state bond issue and a $350 million San Francisco bond issue dedicated to seismic rehabilitation can be pegged directly to Mrs. Comerio.

In addition, Mrs. Comerio served as a part of EERI’s 1997 international team investigating earthquakes in Assisi, Italy, and published the book, Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery (U.C. Press, 1998). The book explores the repercussions in sheltering, government assistance, housing finance, and insurance after urban disasters, and was a result of 1990’s research on housing issues and urban disasters.
More recently, Mrs. Comerio is working as a faculty researcher with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center. The job focuses on analyzing risks and potential losses to universities and private corporate campuses in a variety of earthquake scenarios. The final report on the Economic Benefits of a Disaster Resistant University can be found on the UC/IURD website, and more of her current work will be available from PEER sometime in the near future.

Major Buildings and Projects

“Can Buildings Be Made Earthquake-Safe?” SCIENCE, Vol. 321, April 14, 2006, pp. 204-206.

“Key Elements in a Comprehensive Theory of Disaster Recovery,” 1st International Conference on Urban Disaster Reduction, Institute for Social Safety Science and EERI, Kobe, Japan, 2005.

“Public Policy for Reducing Earthquake Risks: A U.S. Perspective,” Building Research and Information, Special Issue on Risk in the Built Environment, Vol. 32 No. 5, Sept.-Oct. 2004. p. 403-413.

“Paying for the Next Big One,” Issues in Science and Technology, Vol. XVI, No. 3, Spring 2000, pp. 65-72.

Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1998.