Nobody knows where or when the next major earthquake or disaster will strike. While there is clear evidence about the types of buildings likely to suffer damage from seismic shaking, it’s always best to assess your risks by having your apartment building inspected to identify its resiliency as well as its own strengths and weaknesses.
Case in point: Some of the worst damage to come from this summer’s 7.0 Ridgecrest earthquake happened right here in Long Beach to a building that doesn’t normally fall under at-risk categories for structural instability.
The Soroptimist House, a one-story glass-walled building used for 60 years as a student union and for student and alumni functions, suffered structural damage and was red-tagged following the July 5 earthquake, which compromised the building’s façade and rendered it uninhabitable, media outlets reported.
That building was located 170 miles away from the epicenter of the quake.
University officials said the front façade of the structure was compromised to the point that it was no longer taking the loads as designed. Over the years, it had been neglected to the point that it was already suffering from some termite damage and other issues.
1 in 16 buildings compromised
Officials estimate there are as many as 300,000 structures standing today that could crumble or collapse in an earthquake. In Southern California, these numbers equate to one in every 16 buildings, a USGS assessment (The ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario – A Story That Southern Californians Are Writing) determined.
In fact, buildings in the Greater Los Angeles area (which encompasses much of the Long Beach region) have up to a 5 percent chance of being damaged by an earthquake this year, according to the United States Geological Service.
These vulnerable structures include but are not limited to:
- Soft-story structures built before 1978
- Unreinforced masonry buildings built before 1975
- Concrete tilt-up buildings built before 1994
- Non-ductile concrete buildings built before 1977
- Steel moment frame buildings built before 1996
If your building falls within one of these categories, you should consider getting an engineering study to assess the structure’s unique circumstances, which includes not only structural design and composition, but also soil composition and proximity to nearby fault lines.
The benefit of knowing your risks
If your apartment building was constructed in the 1970s or earlier, it is probably not up to the latest seismic safety codes.
A seismic engineering analysis of your property can help to establish clear parameters of risk. That will help in calculating the type of action you should take to make your property more disaster resilient, guarding it and your tenants against harm in the event of a major earthquake.
This step can ultimately lead to structural upgrades that can help to:
- Protect your building’s equity
- Guard against liability
- Preserve a building’s cash flow
- Avoid demolition costs
- Qualify a structure for earthquake insurance
- Enhance the overall value of the property
Most apartment owners have worked very hard for their property. It’s what they rely on for their retirement, and it’s definitely in their best interest to protect it.
Keep yourself informed about the potential risks of earthquakes not only to your building, but to your own fiscal health and well-being.