Does Your Building Need Seismic Upgrades? Here’s How to Tell

Posted August 27, 2019, under Blog

In California, seismic upgrades are required for residential multi-unit structures and commercial buildings that do not meet specific safety standards.

If you own an apartment or commercial building in California that could be lacking modern seismic upgrades and reinforcements, it’s important to know if your structure is at-risk during a large earthquake.

Here are some of the requirements for buildings needing mandatory seismic upgrades in California:

  • The building is located in an area with a dense population.
  • The building is older — typically those built before 1974.
  • The building has a higher percentage of sustaining potential damage during an earthquake.
  • The building is a wood-frame structure, otherwise known as a soft story structure.
  • The building is a steel-moment frame structure built before 1997.
  • The building is a non-ductile moment-resisting concrete frame building constructed before 1976.
  • The building is a concrete tilt-up building that was built before the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
  • The building is a pre-cast building and/or an unreinforced masonry building constructed before 1934.

If you own a residential or commercial building that falls into one the above requirements, one way to determine if the structure is needing seismic upgrades is to perform a “seismic risk analysis.” These reports will analyze and summarize the risk of structural damage to the building in the event of a large earthquake.

In addition to performing a “seismic risk analysis,” building owners should contact a trusted foundation specialists and schedule an inspection of the property.

During the inspection, the foundation specialist will look for structural issues by assessing the age of the building, the quality of the construction, the appearance of excessive cracks (in the interior and exterior), settlement, the crawl space, tuck under parking, and other types of open first ground floors.

Once the inspector has assessed and analyzed the condition of the building, he or she will determine if a retrofit or foundation repair is necessary to bring the building up to seismic safety.

Buildings lacking these structural reinforcements and seismic retrofits pose major hazards and liabilities to all who reside there or live nearby. Without the proper seismic reinforcements, these buildings are more likely to sustain major damage or even collapse in the event of a large earthquake.

Julian De La Torre is an expert in Los Angeles foundation inspection, foundation contractors, earthquake retrofitting, and foundation repair. Julian’s company, Julian Construction, has inspected over 15,000 structures, working with engineering firms and local departments of building & safety.

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