Living here in Southern California, everyone knows that the ground under our feet—and under our buildings—is prone to massive shaking.Estimates are that 90% of buildings in the City of Los Angeles do not meet current building codes for earthquake safety. As a result, owners of specific types of buildings, including soft-story commercial and apartment buildings with tuck-under parking, are required to make seismic upgrades to increase the safety of their buildings. Must act fast to follow earthquake building codes. Southern California has a wealth of good, older buildings that need to be brought up to code in order to stay in use and protect the lives of those who live and work there. This is where seismic retrofit projects begin, and here’s what you need to know to get started:

Building Evaluation

Sizing up the scope of a seismic retrofitting project starts with evaluating your building’s current state. It’s important to choose a seismic retrofit company that uses the latest guidelines from the American Society of Civil Engineers with regard to Tier 1 and Tier 2 risk evaluation. Tier 1 provides a basic check of how earthquake-ready the major structural elements of the building are, and how much danger the building occupants would be in during an earthquake under the current design.

The Tier 2 assessment is a deeper, more granular dig into all the aspects of the building. A Tier 2 evaluation may update the information found in the Tier 1 evaluation, providing a more accurate picture of the building’s needs. Combining these assessments gives us the best, most accurate picture of a building’s current strengths and weaknesses so that any planned work will address those aspects safely and accurately.

In the event that the evaluation discovers that a building is currently too dangerous for habitation, not all is lost. The building may need to be vacated for a time, but in many instances, a seismic retrofit can significantly upgrade the building’s earthquake safety. Once the earthquake retrofitting project is complete and the building passes inspection, it will be safe to use again.

Creating a Seismic Retrofit Plan

Armed with the knowledge of what a building’s seismic deficiencies are, your Los Angeles earthquake retrofit firm can begin to draw up a plan for bringing the building up to the latest, safest earthquake building codes. This process follows three phases:

  1. Design — The planning and design phase takes each of the building’s seismic needs into account and your firm will draw up ways to fortify those areas. Most property owners take this opportunity to upgrade other aspects of their buildings to bring them more in line with modern needs and to withstand earthquake risks better. Remodeling a building for more efficient use, as well as reinforcing it against earthquake risks at the same time, saves property owners both time and money while improving the design and use of the building simultaneously.
  2. Document — The planning phase also includes all the necessary documentation for the project, which is essential during the permitting process to demonstrate that all work will be done up to the latest local building codes.
  3. Permitting — The building department then review all the seismic retrofit plans and documentation before it issues permits that allow the work to begin. This process can take some time, usually between one and three months. This includes the time necessary to inform the building tenants of the plans so that they can take any actions they need (25 days minimum) to prepare for the work to be done. Because time is of the essence, it’s critical to choose an earthquake retrofit firm with extensive experience working with the city and drawing up high-quality plans that will be approved without hassle. Optimum Seismic has four decades of experience specializing in seismic retrofit project throughout Southern California, so make sure to contact us if you have questions about this important process.

Implementing the Seismic Retrofit

Once the plans have been approved and permits have been issued by the building department, work on the project can begin in earnest. Seismic retrofit projects can take weeks to months depending on the extent to which the building must be reinforced and whatever other tenant improvements need to be added for the safety and efficiency of the building. Areas of the building may need to be demolished and rebuilt, shell materials may need replacement and all other structural, electrical and remodeling work will be completed according to the detailed plans outlined. Once the work is complete, the city will need to inspect the building. Once the building passes inspection, the building is ready for work and protecting its inhabitants during the next earthquake.

California property owners have been turning to Optimum Seismic for the highest-quality seismic retrofit work for 36 years. We work closely with property owners and building departments to craft plans that will withstand the test of the next earthquake. Make sure to contact us today to start the process to make your buildings earthquake-ready: 833.978.7664.