San Francisco Seismic Retrofit Blog

USRC Building Rating System

The San Francisco Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) estimated back in 2013 that “43 to 85 percent of the most vulnerable multi-unit, wood-frame buildings would be posted with a red UNSAFE placard (“red tagged”) following a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on a nearby segment of the San Andreas fault, representing 1,200 to 2,400 red-tagged buildings. Red-tagged buildings are uninhabitable and may not be occupied after an earthquake until they are either repaired or replaced… The CAPSS study estimates that with appropriate seismic retrofit the overall rate of collapse in a 7.2 San Andreas fault earthquake drops dramatically.” (Per the San Francisco Ordinance No. 66-13)

In the event of an earthquake there has to be some type of system to evaluate how well a building will hold up. One such rating system 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.”

It is 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.

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.”

April 14, 2017

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