Seismic Retrofit Blog

Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge Reopening

Bridges all over California (and elsewhere) are undergoing improvement projects to ensure their security in the case of a large earthquake- some preemptively and some by necessity. Most recently the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, which runs on Monterey County’s Highway 1, has reopened after major damage- which nearby residents are thrilled about.

The newly constructed bridge, which is now made of steel, was built in replacement of the original concrete bridge that was severely damaged following a severe winter storm in February. 30 miles of this very essential bridge was closed for eight months while repairs were made. 

Many businesses in Big Sur suffered from the loss of traffic coming through the tourist destinations, with many tourists and residents unwilling to make the hike. Some businesses even closed their doors while the bridge was under construction.

The bridge, which opened last month, was a joyous occasion for residents and business owners who celebrated with a grand opening the day that it was officially ready to be driven on again.

The fact that this bridge was able to be completed so quickly is quite amazing. One estimate stated that a project as large as this one could have taken as long as 10 years to complete. However, with a dedicated team of professionals who worked tirelessly through holidays and weekends, the bridge repair was able to be completed in a mere eight months.

Penhall Company was involved in the final portion of the bridge repair. Using a Penhall G-38 grinder, Penhall Company’s team ground the bridge and gave the proper texture to the bridge- as required by CalTrans. Penhall Company finished their work two days before the bridge’s grand opening.

Thankful for all those involved in the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge reconstruction process for making it a success and safer for all of those who use it.




November 22, 2017

Average Time Of A Retrofit

 The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, mainly the size and scope of your individual seismic retrofit project. Each property is unique and requires a different solution than another, so understand that your project may be shorter than the average project or longer than average project.

The process is as follows:

1. Once you have chosen your engineer and contractor for your seismic retrofit the process can be broken into three steps. The engineering process tends to take, on average,  2-4 weeks. Your property needs to be assessed and it takes time for the engineer to determine the best seismic solution for your property. 

2. Once your engineer has returned with the plans they must be submitted to the city for approval. The city will determine if the plans the engineer has proposed are appropriate. This can take as little as 6 weeks and up to 12 weeks. If desired, an expedited plan check is available though there is a fee associated with this service.

3. Once the plan is checked and approved, construction can begin. The time for construction is dependent on the size of the property that is being retrofitted. On average construction takes 30 days but this time frame will increase if the complex is larger.

When the engineering process is completed, the construction portion of the retrofit begins.

As mentioned, time can vary considerably based on the size and scope of the work. On average, construction takes approximately 30 days. However larger and more complex work requires more time (greater than 30 days).

The retrofit process may seem daunting, especially considering that some may even have been unfamiliar with the term “seismic retrofit” prior to receiving their notice. However, there are great resources to learn everything you need to know about the seismic retrofit process.

Visit our blog weekly for more information on retrofitting in California.



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November 17, 2017

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

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