If you own a commercial building or multi-unit housing development in California, you should consider hiring a structural engineer to inspect the foundation of your property. The city of Los Angeles recently passed Ordinance 183893, which requires the retrofit of pre-1978 wood-frame soft-story buildings and non-ductile concrete buildings.

So what’s the goal of retrofitting?

The main goal of the new mandatory retrofit program is to reduce structural deficiencies and improve the performance and stability of buildings in the event of an earthquake. When buildings are constructed with the proper retrofitting techniques, they will be vulnerable and subject to structural failure during the event of a natural disaster.

At Consulting Engineers Corp. in California, we’ve been providing full-service custom structural engineering, specializing in seismic retrofitting, for more than 45 years. As a leading provider of structural engineering services, we’re happy to offer commercial and industrial building owners affordable access to safe and effective structural designs that will protect their investment, as well as their lives. If you need earthquake retrofitting to secure your building, strengthen your soft story, or to bring your building into compliance with the new building codes, you can trust our professionals to get the job done.

Retrofitting for Commercial Buildings

If you have already invested in a commercial building in California, you already know that this is no small feat. Real estate can be incredibly pricey, especially in California, and the risk of seismic damage is so high, it doesn’t make a lot of sense not to protect your investment from the devastating effects of an earthquake. While most commercial spaces were designed beautifully, that’s not to say the engineers incorporated proper structural support. Especially when it comes to standing up against a natural disaster.

If you’re the owner of a commercial building that may be structurally unsound, it’s time to call the experts at Consulting Engineers Corp. for a structural inspection. When you contact our engineers, we’ll schedule a convenient time to visit your property for a thorough inspection. We’ll then discuss the best way to strengthen your building’s structure, so you don’t have to worry about your building crumbling to the ground the next time there is an earthquake.

Retrofitting for Industrial Spaces

Industrial spaces are also at risk of structural damage from seismic activity in California. Most industrial spaces tend to be large and open. This normally means that there isn’t a ton of support for the structure in the case of a natural disaster like an earthquake. Rather than letting your investment stay at risk, you should consider hiring a structural engineer to conduct seismic retrofits on your property. In the great state of California, we’ve discovered that most industrial spaces are non-ductile concrete buildings, but what does this mean?

Non-Ductile Concrete Buildings

A non-ductile concrete building is defined as a concrete building that has concrete floors and/or a concrete roof. These buildings are also supported by concrete walls, columns, frames, or a combination of them all. These structures are brittle and tend to have a limited capacity to absorb the energy of seismic activity, which can lead to building collapse and mortality among the inhabitants. Luckily, the Non-Ductile Concrete Retrofit Program was introduced to prevent losses from happening. According to this program, the property owner must comply with the ordinance within the following time limits:

  • 3 Years – Within three years, the building owner must submit a completed checklist for review. This will help to determine whether the structure is indeed non-ductile.
  • 10 Years – Within 10 years, the building owner must submit one of the following: proof of a previous retrofit, future plans to retrofit, or plans to demolish the entire building.
  • 25 Years – The complete retrofitting project should be completed within 25 years.

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Retrofitting for Multi-Unit Housing Developments

Owning a multi-unit housing development in California can be extremely risky, especially if your building does not comply with the new retrofitting requirements. As a building owner, your number one concern should be about the safety of the people you are renting your space to. Most housing developments were constructed without seismic designs in mind, making them extremely vulnerable to seismic activity from earthquakes.

 Common Seismic Retrofitting FAQs

What Is A Mandatory Seismic Retrofit Program?

If you live in California, you’ve probably already heard about the mandatory seismic retrofit program. This unique legislation requires the retrofit of older and larger commercial, industrial, and multi-unit housing developments that have a soft story condition. These structures are deemed susceptible to earthquake damage due to structural weaknesses that can be found in the lower story (this story is usually an open parking lot or commercial space). In the event of an earthquake, soft-story buildings can suffer disastrous consequences.

According to the Soft Story Ordinance, a soft story building is defined to:

  • Have a wood frame
  • Was constructed prior to 1978
  • Has three or more standing stories
  • Contains five or more residential units
  • Features large windows or garage doors at the ground level story

What Are The Dangers Of Soft Story Buildings?

If you own a soft story building in California, you may be wondering what’s at risk. Past earthquakes have demonstrated that these buildings are extremely vulnerable to severe damage or even collapse during a major earthquake. If damage to your structure isn’t enough to make you want to retrofit your building, consider the safety risk to the occupants inside. The city of San Francisco estimates that 43 to 85% of soft story buildings will be uninhabitable following the next big earthquake, with widespread damage that could displace up to 58,000 residents, 2,000 businesses, and 7,000 employees who work for those businesses.

I Own A Soft Story Building. Now What?

If you have received a notice from the city that states your building is indeed a soft story, you will need to take action right away. When you contact the structural engineers at Consulting Engineers Corp., we’ll help you determine the structural integrity of your building before recommending the best retrofitting solution for you. Some steps that need to be taken for your retrofit project include:

  • File A Screening Form – The very first step in getting your building retrofitted is to file a screening form. We recommend doing this with the help of a certified structural engineer to make sure you understand everything. You’ll need to file the form with the City’s Department of Building Inspection (DBI).
  • Create A Retrofit Design – When you hire a structural engineer to inspect your home, they may recommend a variety of new installations to keep your home safe from seismic activity. More often than not, the installation of structural steel framing will be needed throughout various areas on the ground level of your property. Some foundation work may also be required.

What Happens If I Refuse To Retrofit?

If you refuse to abide by the new retrofitting regulations in California, you may have to face legal action.

According to a an article from Bisnow, over 1,100 property owners in San Francisco have yet to comply with the seismic safety standards and ordinances. Property owners across California who fail to file a permit will receive a poster-sized earthquake warning sign that must be posted on their property. This is a safety measure to make sure the tenants and neighbors of the structure are aware of the building’s lack of compliance. Landlords who continue to ignore the new law will eventually be summoned to a hearing at the Department of Building Inspection. There, they will have to explain why they have not complied with the ordinance, which could lead to costly fines or even a lien on the property.

Why Should I Hire A Structural Engineer?

When you own a house, apartment building, or commercial structure in California, it’s critical that you comply with the seismic regulations that have been put in place. A way to make this easier on yourself is by hiring a structural engineer, like the professionals at Consulting Engineers Corp., to help.

Structural engineers are licensed and trained professionals who specialize in determining whether a building’s structure is safe and secure. They analyze a variety of factors like gravity, wind, temperature, and pressure to make the call as to whether or not a structure can stand up to such forces. These building inspectors are great at detecting early warning signs that may indicate there is an issue with your building. Unlike architects, who concentrate on the aesthetics and functionality of a building, a structural engineer will make sure your building can support and resist seismic movement.

The Benefits Of A Seismic Retrofit

There are many benefits to hiring a structural engineer to seismic retrofit your building. A seismic retrofit will not only protect your employees, company, inventory, and equipment inside of your building, but it can also lower insurance premiums, attract lenders, and provide you with peace of mind.

If you’re nervous about the price of retrofitting, it’s important to note that the cost of hardware that is stalled during the process will often become equity in the building. This happens because seismic retrofits can increase your property’s value and lowers its Probable Maximum Loss, or PML. We’ve found that most building owners can recover their retrofitting costs in 2 to 8 years due to reduced earthquake insurance premiums.

The most practical benefit from a seismic retrofit is the prevention of loss. A short, 15-second earthquake can devastate your building as well as the people inside of it. If your building and employees suffer damages, you may lose a good amount of money due to:

  • The loss of lives in your structure
  • Medical costs of those injured
  • Loss of tenants
  • Litigation from employees and residents
  • Loss of assets within the building
  • Cost of a temporary relocation

Structural Engineers in California

If you’re ready to learn more about the benefits of seismic retrofitting for your commercial building, industrial space, or multi-unit housing development, contact the structural engineers at Consulting Engineers Corp. today. Since 1970, we’ve designed over 100,000,000 million square feet of commercial and industrial space and we have performed earthquake retrofitting on many existing structures. We also specialize in the retrofitting of soft-story buildings, and we’re passionate about finding the best solution for your property.