Seismic Retrofit Blog

Seismic Retrofit Solutions: Fibrwrap ®

The new seismic retrofit ordinances passed in cities across California have prompted many property owners to consider the best possible solution for their property’s retrofit, with the help of a professional engineer. While there are a variety of solutions for a seismic retrofit based on building type, the use of fiber reinforced polymer systems can be a creative and cost-effective solution for a building’s retrofit.

Penhall Seismic Retrofit Services spoke with Scott Arnold, the Director of Engineering Solutions for Fyfe Co LLC., about the state of seismic retrofitting today- especially following the recent, devastating earthquakes in Mexico and elsewhere. Fyfe Co. is a producer of Tyfo® Fibrwrap ® Composite Systems that have been utilized on a variety of retrofit projects around the world.


Question: Do you feel that recent earthquakes (here and abroad) have prompted property owners as well as cities to be more diligent in seismically strengthening their buildings?

Scott Arnold: Yes. More awareness to these events and observed damage and loss of assets has prompted legislation to address potential issues. It is a slow moving process, but clever owners will retrofit sooner than later in order to protect their assets and also save money. These retrofits don’t get less expensive as time goes by.


He is certainly correct in saying that retrofits do not lower in cost as time goes by. As the deadlines for retrofitting in California cities loom, it may be even more difficult to complete the retrofit as demand grows. In addition, when people began to see the footage of buildings collapsing in Mexico it made clear to many the danger of having seismically unsafe buildings- especially in an earthquake prone state like California. Buildings and structures that have been seismically strengthened can save lives in the case of a large earthquake.


Question: Do you have any comments on the state of seismic retrofitting today compared to how it was 30 years ago?

Scott Arnold: There is just as much, if not more, required seismic retrofits today as there were 30 years ago. The codes are updated every three years and mother nature is due to give us another remind any day now. Our technology is more accepted today than it was in the past, so I believe we are well positioned to capture quite a bit of necessary work.


There have been multiple earthquakes in California over the last 30 years that have reminded us all of the importance of seismic safety in building, particularly the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1980 and the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Thankfully, technological advances in seismic retrofitting have allowed for less invasive solutions that are also cost-effective.


Question: Tyfo® Fibrwrap ® has been utilized on thousands of retrofit projects around the world. How does it feel to know that this material is not only saving lives, but also keeping buildings habitable following a large earthquake?

Scott Arnold: Solving structural problems in a more clever and cost-effective manner is quite satisfying, but I really realize the true value when I consider the fact that we have really helped protect our citizens and make our infrastructure much more resilient.


Beyond anything else, seismic strengthening in California and elsewhere is intended to save lives. Regardless of your building type- whether it is soft story, non-ductile, or URM, consider the seismic retrofit options in your area to ensure the safety of yourself, your loved ones, and your investments in the case of a large earthquake.

Penhall Seismic Retrofit Services is very excited to be a certified applicator of Tyfo® Fibrwrap ®.


November 10, 2017

Santa Monica Rent Control Decision Updates

The Santa Monica Rent Control Board met on October 12th to discuss the upcoming seismic retrofit ordinance and its impact on rent controlled apartments in the city. 

It is not just the tenants that are upset about the potential for a rent increase, but property owners are also upset to have to mandatorily retrofit their buildings. Understandably, this is not a cost that many property owners anticipated having to incur- so it has come as quite a shock to many.

Property owners voiced concern over what they considered to be exorbitant prices to retrofit, with some stating that a retrofit would be financially devastating to them.  With nearly 2,000 buildings required to retrofit in Santa Monica, many property owners are concerned about the fast approaching deadlines.

In Thursday’s meeting the Santa Monica Rent Control Board discussed the potential pass through rate in the city. They discussed the pass through rate in Los Angeles, which is 50%, and in San Francisco which allows for 100% of the cost to be passed through to tenants. During the meeting there were many supporters of no pass-through for tenants, stating that they would be overburdened by this increase. Advocates for the tenants have overwhelmingly shown their support at these meetings. 

While no decision was made on this issue at Thursday’s meeting, the Rent Control Board resolved to gather more information about the pass through programs that have been implemented in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Berkeley is of particular interest to Santa Monica because of similarities in city size and strength of rent control regulation.

The seismic retrofit ordinance deadlines in Santa Monica are approaching quickly so a decision must be made. Compared to other cities, Santa Monica’s retrofit ordinance is the most rushed in terms of deadlines. 

Updates on this topic to follow as they are provided by the Santa Monica Rent Control Board.





October 27, 2017

CoreLogic’s California Earthquake Risk Report

Discussion centered around the topic of the “big one” that is expected to hit California in the next 30 years has been ongoing, as research has been conducted in order to assess risk and prepare as much as possible for its arrival. An 8.0 magnitude or higher earthquake along the San Andreas fault would be devastating to the lives of those in the affected areas.

The data released describes the potential damages that California could experience in the case of a massive earthquake. The report’s data estimates the number of homes that could be damaged as well as the potential reconstruction cost for different earthquake scenarios, dependent upon on the location of the rupture area. CoreLogic’s new earthquake hazard system has identified the startling conclusion that a single large earthquake could actually rupture the entire length of the San Andreas fault line, which extends for about 750 miles through California- running from Mendocino County to Riverside County. Previously, other risk models considered the Northern and Southern regions of the San Andreas fault as “independent” of each other. This understanding significantly increases the probability of losses and damage for both Northern and Southern California.

While it is certainly possible for both the Northern and Southern portion of the San Andreas fault to rupture at once, the chances of that happening in our lifetime are quite slim- a USGS researcher states. However, the intent of the CoreLogic study was to theorize about a worst case scenario situation- including multiple earthquake possibilities (LA TIMES).

The financial losses associated with an earthquake of this size are overwhelming. The new estimates put forward by CoreLogic estimate losses of up to $289 billion dollars for an earthquake of 8.3 magnitude, with a larger rupture area than once anticipated. The previous earthquake risk assessment considered the earthquake risk as limited to either areas of Northern California or Southern California, making up two different earthquake scenarios. While the new and revised earthquake risk report considers a full rupture across the entirety of the San Andreas Fault. The previous earthquake risk scenario for a Northern San Andreas rupture estimated the reconstruction cost value at $161 billion. That is more than 100 billion dollars less than the new report estimates for reconstruction cost. As the potential rupture area size increases, so does the number of homes at risk for damage- especially homes in Northern California. The initial risk assessed the number of homes damaged at 1.6 million, while the revised risk estimates more than double that number of homes will be impacted.

San Andreas Fault- Photo Accessed Via NY Daily News

The Shakeout Scenario, published by the USGS in 2008, theorized about a potential 7.8 magnitude earthquake that would strike on the far southern portion of the San Andreas fault. This earthquake risk scenario, like CoreLogic’s, assessed the potential property damage and included estimates of the loss of life that may be experienced during a quake of this magnitude and at that specific location. The study initially estimated that there would be approximately 1,800 deaths overall as a result of this quake. Their explanation for such a number is related to the quality of buildings in the area as well as the high risk for fire following the earthquake. Since this report was published, mandatory seismic retrofit ordinances have been passed in cities throughout California.

With this in mind, it is not unreasonable to infer that this number may lessen as residents continue to make seismic improvements on their properties. In fact, it was stated in the ShakeOut scenario report that the number 1,800 was as low as it was because of the proposed improvements that will continue to be made as the retrofit program deadlines approach. The emphasis on seismic retrofit mandates in California can in part be explained by the overwhelming amount of deaths caused by the collapse of soft-story buildings during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, as noted in the Shakeout Scenario report.

It is reassuring that some of California’s cities are taking such significant strides towards greater seismic safety. In the case of “the big one” to come, safer buildings will hopefully lessen the financial damages that California will face and most importantly- lessen the loss of life.

While CoreLogic’s study allows for risk managers to evaluate risk for the purposes of insurance- the implications of this information are much more far reaching. The information this risk assessment provides allows for, among many other things, better preparation for emergency response and improvement to public safety in an earthquake situation.







October 16, 2017

Santa Monica Seismic Retrofit Updates

As you may already know, the Santa Monica City Council approved a stringent seismic retrofit ordinance on March 28th, 2017. While the retrofit of single family homes is voluntary in the city, there are a list of other building types that require seismic retrofitting. While some must be retrofitted as quickly as 2 years upon receiving notice, others have up to 20 years to comply with the ordinance.

Among the building types that have the quickest timeline are…

  1. Unreinforced Masonry  (Completed Retrofit: 2 years)
  2. Concrete Tilt-Up (Completed Retrofit: 3 years)
  3. Soft-Story Buildings (Completed Retrofit: 6 years)

Now that the ordinance has been passed, the issue of how to deal with the costs associated with seismically vulnerable buildings that are subject to rent control has come up. In other cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, you can pass through a percentage of the retrofit cost to tenants. In Los Angeles, property owners can pass through 50% while in San Francisco property owners can pass through 100% of the seismic retrofit costs to tenants- through incremental increases in rent. There are at least 1200 buildings that fall under this ordinance which are subject to rent control- Santa Monica Daily Press reports.

In their meeting on October 12th, 2017, the Santa Monica Rent Control Board will discuss what percentage of the cost should be allowed to be passed through to Santa Monica’s tenants (if any at all).  The Santa Monica Rent Control Board urges all and any concerned parties, whether tenants or property owners, to come out to voice their opinions on this matter.

The meeting will take place at City Hall on Thursday, October 12th at 7:00 pm.

Updates on the issue of rent increases due to seismic retrofitting to follow as they are released following the meeting.




October 12, 2017

Hurricane Maria Relief

Amidst all of the chaos associated with the multiple natural disasters over the last few months, it is so inspiring to see people reaching out to truly try and help those who have been impacted by these tragic events. Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico without power, without adequate resources, and without the ability to sustain the lives and wellbeing of millions of people.

The distribution of aid has proved to be problematic following the aftermath of the Hurricane, due to a lack of transport vehicles and blocked roads- among other reasons. Thousands of containers of supplies holding food, water, and other vital resources have been sitting at the San Juan Port, waiting to be distributed. While often times it can seem hopeless watching these disasters and extreme difficulties unfold, four women decided to take action to try and bring support to the millions of people in Puerto Rico, who we know need it so badly.

Susan Sarrett, Becky Bump, Joy Haycox, and Kathy O’Hara are the four women spearheading what has been referred to as an “informal relief mission”- dedicating their time and resources to bring necessities to the many devastated communities in Puerto Rico. This whole story began when Haycox traveled through San Juan to the Virgin Islands to assist in an animal rescue mission. Through this trip Haycox was introduced to a United Airlines employee named Sonia Morales, who assisted Haycox in getting to the Virgin Islands. Later, Haycox had the opportunity to return the favor by providing Morales with a camping stove (trying to, at least).

Photo Courtesy of The Virginian Pilot Online

This modest request from Morales motivated these women to begin their mission. With the help of a taxi driver named Tony, they distributed their first batch of supplies to Puerto Rico residents.

These women brought along with them everything from tarps and batteries to strawberry jelly and with these simple yet vital items were able to touch the lives of many affected by Hurricane Maria. This team is planning yet another trip back to Puerto Rico to offer more assistance early next week, bringing with them more than 50 water filters from the Water Works program. The Water Works program is team building with a cause.  Penhall Company and Penhall Technologies came together to donate these water filters to help the residents of Puerto Rico who are still struggling for even the most basic necessity; water.  

For more information on the Water Works program and how you can get involved- visit the link below.

October 5, 2017

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