Santa Monica 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

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

What Is Liquefaction?

What is liquefaction?

Liquefaction can be explained as the phenomena when soil behaves as a liquid when there is seismic activity occurring in that area.

How does liquid behave?

Liquid flows down and causes the soil particles to separate and lose contact.

What areas are at risk?

An area is at risk for liquefaction if the soil underground is saturated or if man-made landfill is utilized. Loose, young soils are also susceptible to this phenomena.

According to the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the effects of liquefaction can take a number of different forms. Among them are: flow failures, lateral spreads, ground oscillation, and loss of bearing strength- among others.(

Flow Failures

This refers to the displacement of masses of soil. This may include soil that is fully liquefied as well as portions of material that are not liquified, in addition to the liquefied soil. Flow failures are common when “relatively steep slopes” are present. The instability caused by liquefaction pushes the liquefied soil down the slope.

Lateral Spreads

Lateral refers to the side or sides and displacement refers to the moving of something from its position. A lateral spread refers to the displacement of blocks of soil, resulting from the forces created by an earthquake. As compared to flow failures, lateral spreads most often occur on gentle slopes. This can affect building foundations as well as pipelines.

Examples of Lateral Spreads In Past Earthquakes

During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, lateral spreading had a devastating effect on the pipelines in the affected areas. Due to the damaged pipelines, the fires burned for much longer than they would have had there been access to water.

In the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, bridges were severely damaged and in some cases destroyed due to the effects of lateral spreading.

Ground Oscillation

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute explains that if the ground is too flat or the slope is too gentle for lateral displacement to occur, the resulting effect is ground oscillation. During the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the effects of ground oscillation were apparent in the sidewalks that were buckled as a result of the soil oscillation.

An example of ground oscillation in the Loma Prieta earthquake.

 Photo Courtesy of USGS


A modern day example of liquefaction is the infamous Millennium Tower in San Francisco, which as many people know is sinking and tilting. This issue can be explained by the soil that millennium stands on, largely man-made fill- which is prone to liquefaction.

Liquefaction prone areas can be identified, but when exactly it will happen cannot be predicted. Researchers have made strides in identifying areas with the potential for liquefaction which has helped provide insight into hazard areas.





September 18, 2017

The Differences between Ordinary Moment Frames and Special Moment Frames

Due to the latest seismic ordinances passed in Santa Monica, there has been a lot of talk around different seismic solutions and options, moment frames being one of those options.  There are three different types of moment frames: ordinary, intermediate, and special. After reading this short article, it will only take a moment for you to understand the fundamental differences between Ordinary Moment Frames and Special Moment Frames.

Seismic Retrofit building structure

Ordinary Moment Frame- Seismic Retrofit

To begin, a standard moment frame is defined as a system of columns and beams which are connected by either fully or partially restrained moment connections.  As one might expect based on its name, “ordinary” moment frames, one of the three types of moment frames,  are generally found in areas described as non/low-seismic regions. The expectation is that ordinary moment frames are able to endure limited inelastic deformations caused by lateral forces. Ordinary moment frames only require onsite welding, which differs from the requirements for special moment frames. Special Moment Frames, another type of moment frame, are “special” in that they are expected to endure more significant inelastic deformation than ordinary moment frames. In addition, Special Moment Frames utilize different connections than Ordinary Moment Frames and they do not require field welding. Generally even with on-site welding the cost of Ordinary Moment Frames won’t go over that of a Special Moment Frame. These connections must be prequalified, as stipulated by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Since Special Moment Frames can endure more deformation, they are often found in areas described as mid to high-seismic regions. Seismic retrofits constructed utilizing moment frames can sometimes be more costly and time consuming because moment frames often require more welding on site than other frames do. Traditionally, special moment frames are more expensive than ordinary moment frames because these types of frames are often found in mid/high-seismic regions. Your engineer may decide whether or not moment frames are right for your particular project but they are preferred under certain circumstances. If your building includes large open areas within your structure, such as a tuck-under parking garage, moment frames would often be the building solution that is preferred.  Considering the latest ordinances regarding soft story seismic retrofits, the Santa Monica area will be seeing moment frames of all types over the course of the next five years.

Seismic Retrofit Structure to decrease earthquake damage

Photo courtesy of Hardy Frame by MiTek

For more helpful information on seismic retrofit services that will fit your individual projects needs, keep an eye out for more blog postings on our website-

References inlcude: (by Dylan Richard and Walter Moore) 

August 4, 2017

Recent Recorded California Earthquakes

Written: Thursday May 18th at 10:37 AM

Within the past 24 hours there have been seven earthquakes in Southern California, each of which with a magnitude of 2.2 or below ( Although earthquakes of this magnitude are not even considered “minor” on the Richter scale and are generally not felt, their occurrences and closeness to one another are unsettling nonetheless. The last 30 Days has seen 190 earthquakes in the last thirty days in Southern California, the largest of which actually occurred less than 48 hours ago. Isla Vista experienced a “slight” 4.1 magnitude quake at 9:42 pm, though no reports of damage were reported.  While earthquakes of a relatively small magnitude do not literally “shake” us and therefore may be easy to ignore, it is important to remember that at one point or another, an earthquake of larger magnitude will occur; it is just a matter of when.

For years, there has been extensive discussion about when “the big” earthquake will hit. It has been suggested that Southern California is “overdue” for a big earthquake, which could hit at any time. Although many people would prefer to simply ignore Southern California’s precarious position in relation to the San Andreas Fault. According to the San Andreas Fault website, “the big one”, although “hypothetical”,  is expected to have a magnitude of 8 or greater. Proper steps must be taken to ensure that the negative impacts of this earthquake are as minimal as possible. This is of particular importance in urban areas, due to larger populations and the types of buildings found in these particular places. It is evident that there has been a greater awareness of the threat of these quakes when considering the recent mandatory seismic retrofit ordinances that have been passed in Southern California as well as other areas of California. The recent discourse around the somewhat small but frequent earthquakes that have been occurring, in addition to the imminent threat of a much larger one, has led to a greater understanding the need and importance of seismic retrofitting. The implementation of mandatory seismic retrofit ordinances for possibly vulnerable buildings will benefit and serve thousands of buildings, but most importantly save the lives of those who live in buildings that may be severely impacted by a large and devastating earthquake.



August 4, 2017

What’s In Your Bag? Emergency Bag Preparations

It has been said that “preparation is the key to success”, but in the event of an earthquake preparation is the key to safety for you and your family. Having a packed emergency bag and a planned meeting spot can ideally make a scary situation somewhat easier. This article will address the items that you should store in an emergency bag that you can quickly grab if an earthquake occurs.

First, let’s start with the essential items. Arguably the most important item you can have in your bag and your home is water. Whether it is bottled or bagged, you cannot have enough of it. Next on the list is food. In your emergency bag you can include canned food (with a can opener of course), dried fruits, and essentially anything that can be prepared solely with heat and water. Some good examples of food to include would be canned meats such as tuna, protein bars, and nuts. High protein foods keep you fuller longer so they come in handy in case of emergency. Remember that it is important to swap these items out approximately every six months. In the case that there is no electricity, a flashlight is essential so that you can more easily maneuver in the dark. In addition, having a first aid kit is extremely important if you or your loved ones were hurt in the midst or aftermath of a quake. As is the case with food and water, you should consistently replace first aid kits to be sure that the contents have not expired.

Now that you have the essentials taken care of, here are some other useful items you may want to include in your emergency bag…

Other Useful Items

1. Warm clothes and Sturdy Shoes

-If evenings are cold or certain areas have flooded after an earthquake, the comfort of having weather appropriate clothes and reliable shoes for yourself and your loved ones cannot be emphasized enough.

2. Sleeping Bag

-In the case that you are unable to stay at your own home, a sleeping bag is always good to have on hand. Based on the area you live, you may opt to purchase sleeping bag with a lower or higher temperature rating.

3. Cash

-If power goes out during an earthquake ATM’s will be out of service, so having some cash stashed away could be very useful if you need to purchase more supplies.

4. Cellphone Charger

-Although there is a chance that there will not be power, having a charged cellphone could help you get in touch with your family and friends to make sure they are okay.

5. Radio

– A battery powered radio can keep you updated in case of emergency.

Although this list does not include EVERY item that you and your family might need if an earthquake occurs, it should have gotten you thinking about preparing an emergency bag and what else you would like to put in there. These simple preparations can make all the difference in a stressful situation, so don’t wait!

Click the link above for a PDF of Penhall Company’s Earthquake Preparedness Card!

List of Emergency Items

For more helpful information on earthquake preparedness visit


July 18, 2017

Rating Buildings for Seismic Resiliency

Seismic Retrofit Service in Santa Monica – Industry News

In Santa Monica, many property owners had retrofits completed in 1994 after the Northridge quake. However, many of those retrofits were only partially completed, i.e. parapet only, diaphragm anchorage, full or partial wall bracing, etc. 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. The seismic retrofit notice that owners will receive would inform them of the additional work that needs to be done to be up to code. 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, “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.”

May 18, 2017