Seismic Retrofits: It’s What You Don’t Know That Can Hurt You

Seismic Retrofits: It’s What You Don’t Know That Can Hurt You

By |2018-11-28T19:20:37+00:00November 28th, 2018|Earthquake Retrofits, Seismic Retrofit|

Generally speaking, knowledge is the key to understanding threats and developing strategies to overcome them.

We ask our loved ones to wear their seatbelts, because we know that their chances of surviving a crash are so much better with them on.

Likewise, structural engineers and seismologists, for years, have been working together to better understand seismic thrusts and their impacts on our built environment.

Their research and knowledge have led to the development of seismic retrofit approaches that have been proven to protect buildings with cost-efficient results calculated at seven dollars for every dollar spent.

Now, we are on the brink of an even better understanding.

The National Science Foundation recently gave U.C. San Diego $16.3 million to upgrade its outdoor shake table so it can more accurately simulate earthquakes.

To date, the shake table — a moveable platform big enough for a building to stand upon it — moves only backward and forward. The grant will allow seismologists to modify the table so it can move up and down, right and left, and simulate the pitch and roll that are typical of earthquake movement.

Joel Conte, a U.C. San Diego structural engineer, said the results will provide the most accurate data available anywhere in the world.

“This will accelerate the discovery of the knowledge engineers need to build new bridges, power plants, dams, levees, telecommunication towers, wind turbines, retaining walls, tunnels, and to retrofit older structures,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It will enhance the resiliency of our communities.”

Knowledge is Power

Clearly, the more we know about earthquakes and their impact on our built environment, the better we become at guarding against them.

That an important fact — not only for structural engineers but for apartment owners, too.

Earthquake retrofits help to guard against loss that could ruin apartment owners financially.

On the other hand, retrofits can help to add value to a property. These structural upgrades testify to the enduring stability of a structure, which enhances its worth.

Protect Cash Flow, Equity

Retrofitted buildings with little or no damage following a major quake will continue to provide the income owners need to pay the mortgage on the property.

This is an important point because apartment owners will still be required to pay on your mortgage even if their property is red-tagged. Some earthquake insurance covers some of these operations costs during reconstruction, but the odds are that you will need to pass a seismic safety inspection in order to qualify. In many instances, that will require a retrofit.

If your property is red-tagged, you will be responsible for the demolition and cleanup of the property.

This can significantly add to the costs of recovery — particularly for older structures that may contain hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead.

Guarding against catastrophic damage with a retrofit can be a cost-effective and pro-active line of defense against these worst-case, but very possible scenarios.

Enhance the Value of Your Property

Because of the growing understanding about building vulnerabilities and the types of structures most prone to damage from an earthquake, many financial lenders are now requiring a structural analysis as a part of any lending or refinancing package.

That means that even undamaged, your building may be unable to qualify for a new or revised loan. Prospective buyers may also have trouble getting financing for the purchase of your building if it is not protected against earthquake damage.

In this scenario, you may find yourself unable to tap into your equity when you need to.

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.

About the Author:

Ali Sahabi
Ali Sahabi has been a licensed General Engineering Contractor (GEC) since 1993, and is a principal at Optimum Seismic, Inc. He has completed hundreds of seismic retrofitting and adaptive reuse projects for multifamily residential, commercial, and industrial buildings throughout California.

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