Tilt-Up Buildings May Collapse in Earthquakes

Tilt-up concrete commercial and industrial buildings in California may be extremely vulnerable to collapse in earthquakes if built prior to the late 1990s under less stringent building codes existing at the time.

While economical to construct and requiring minimal maintenance, the flawed design standard used for these older buildings leaves them likely to fail in earthquakes. These oider tilt-up buildings can be made more safe by seismic retrofits, which typically include providing wall supports and securing connections of wooden roofs to walls to prevent collapses.

Tilt-up buildings are favored for large commercial and industrial uses, where they are occupied by workers, machines and business inventory.  However, building and business owners face serious consequences caused by full or partial collapse during earthquakes that can be very costly in terms of death, injuries and loss of products, supplies and highly technical equipment. The cost of losses inside these buildings can often be far greater than the actual value of the building itself.

Structural engineering experts at Optimum Seismic, Inc. indicate there are multiple benefits to retrofitting an aging tilt-up building. These benefits include:

  • Limiting property damage by ensuring your building’s structural safety
  • Preventing loss of equity and income due to earthquakes
  • Avoiding building replacement costs
  • Avoiding costly litigation and judgements for earthquake liability
  • Limiting business interruption costs
  • Limiting loss of market share for your business
  • Extending the building’s life
  • Improving the value and marketability of the building
  • Limiting the risk of deaths and injuries to tenants and employees
  • Reducing insurance costs
  • Meeting financial institution requirements for financing

Tilt-ups vs. Earthquakes

Tilt-ups get their name from the construction method used to cast concrete walls on a slab before they are pulled – or tilted – into place. The roof is then lifted and set into place, tying the structure together.

Tilt-up buildings grew in popularity in California following World War II. Tragically, the 1971 San Fernando earthquake revealed shortcomings of tilt-up construction in relation to earthquakes. In many cases, the connection between the roof and walls was simply inadequate to provide proper support at the top of the walls. As a result, heavy concrete wal