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Retrofitting to Comply With Earthquake Codes

Retrofitting to Comply With Earthquake Codes

In the not so distant past, buildings were designed using the concept of “build it and forget it”.  As we know today, especially on the west coast, that is extremely dangerous.  The lifespan of any building or structure is largely determined by engineering and design, with consideration given to the materials used and the environment.

Avoiding structural failure is possible provided the materials are not stressed beyond their capacity.  Within the last twenty years, new earthquake building codes in California have become more defined and stringent.  Older buildings built under prior building codes continue to be more vulnerable to earthquake events.  Buildings constructed before 1987 aren’t considered to be engineered well enough to withstand the strain of an earthquake shock.

The bottom line is that a structure that has been designed well can sustain a localized failure without the entire structure collapsing.  If the building wasn’t originally designed to accomplish that mission, it must be retrofitted.

There are two different criteria typically reviewed to determine if a building needs to be retrofitted:

1. Time Period
  • If it was built before 1978, the building will definitely need a seismic retrofit.
  • If a building was built during the 1980’s or early 90’s, most likely it will need a seismic retrofit.
  • It is possible that if building was built in the late 1990’s, it will still need a seismic retrofit.  Typically, however, buildings made after the mid-90’s were built with earthquake safety and structural soundness in mind.
2. Type of Building
  • Concrete buildings with multiple stories may need strengthening systems to help them withstand extreme weight.
  • Unreinforced masonry may need wall strengthening with tube steel or fiber wrapping, along with new roof-to-wall connections, and new plywood overlay on the roof.
  • Concrete Tilt-Up and reinforced masonry typically requires roof-to-wall anchors, continuity ties, and sometimes steel brace frames to ensure the roof does not break apart if the walls sway and move during an earthquake.
  • Buildings with an open first floor, and a closed second floor above, do not stand up well in most earthquake conditions.  These buildings usually require steel framing and shear walls to prevent the first floor from rotating and completely collapsing during an earthquake.

It is important to note that property owners could be held liable for injuries and damages if they were aware that repairs were needed and they refused to complete the necessary safety updates.  Without being retrofitted, most buildings do not qualify for earthquake insurance.  Of course, no amount of insurance can cover negligence.  If you know your building requires structural work in order to be safe, note that it is your responsibility to make sure repairs are completed and safety issues are properly addressed.

Having your building retrofitted, properly anchored and reinforced, and all safety hazards removed is a primary aspect of earthquake preparation for both residential and commercial properties.  No building has yet been constructed that doesn’t require regular, thorough inspections and maintenance over the course of time.

Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit serves the Los Angeles area, and our highly trained professionals understand all the benefits of retrofitting.  We meet with building owners and/or property managers to discuss options for the scope of work after determining the building’s needs and the building owner’s budget.  Our experts will provide building owners with an insurance quote based on present and after-retrofitting values so they can see how the changes can help reduce earthquake insurance premiums.  Besides reducing the cost of coverage, it is much more affordable and safe to retrofit a building before an earthquake rather than to repair expensive damages or pay for liabilities later.  To get more information on how to tell if a building needs to be retrofitted, call Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit Los Angeles today…

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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