1. What is “Building Resiliency Rating System”?
When evaluating levels of seismic retrofitting, it is at the discretion of the owner to what level of resiliency they desire for their building. At minimum, the seismic retrofit ordinances aim to make buildings safe enough for tenants to exit the building safely in the event of a large earthquake. This does not guarantee that the building will be habitable after an earthquake. For other buildings that would in fact need to be in operation after a large quake, i.e. hospitals, these buildings must be kept to a higher standard of resiliency.
One such rating system for evaluating how well a building will hold up in an earthquake is known as the United States Resiliency Council Building Rating System. Per the USRC website, “The USRC Building Rating System assigns one to five stars for three performance measures – Safety, Damage expressed as repair cost, and Recovery expressed as time to regain basic function.”
Every city should be concerned first and foremost about the safety of its residents, but secondly, they should want to make sure that the City would still be able to thrive after an earthquake. Would the residents be able to return to their homes and/or jobs after a quake, or will they move to an area of less seismic activity? Per www.fema.gov/building-codes, “If you live or work in retrofitted structures, you’re less likely to be injured during an earthquake. After the earthquake, you’re also more likely to have a home and a job to which you can quickly return. Businesses that use retrofitted buildings are more likely to survive damaging earthquakes and to sustain shorter business interruptions and fewer inventory losses.”
2. What is seismic code? How has it developed over the years in California?
The evolution of the seismic codes in California over the years is a tale of discovery and ultimately safety. The seismic code improvements are welcomed by many, but more importantly necessary for the personal safety of many California families. The intention of these new and improved seismic codes is to create stronger structural integrity and protection for existing buildings and those who live and work within them.
Often times what causes the most damages during an earthquake is not the earthquake itself, but the fact that poorly constructed buildings can crumble as a result of them. The new seismic ordinances mandated in California extend to existing wood-frame buildings constructed with soft, weak, or open-front walls. These improvements to seismic code were made partly in response to the property damage that has been experienced in past earthquakes. Many buildings that had been constructed prior to 1978 proved to be insufficient and unable to withstand seismic activity, causing irreparable damage to property and unfortunately resulting in many personal injuries.
The new seismic code improvements have created a minimum safety standard that will allow for buildings in California to perform better when faced with earthquakes, reducing the chance of property damage and instances of injury. These ordinances apply only to buildings that have more than three units. If the building you live in or own fits any of the aforementioned criteria, yourself or the building’s owner will receive an order to comply with new seismic codes.