One of the areas we specialize in is retrofitting old structures to bring them up to code. Retrofits can be complex because they require a building inspection, structural plans, and specific requirements due to material and building types.

Services offered for older buildings:
  • Seismic Assessments & Rehabilitation
  • Soft-story

Seismic Assessment & Rehabilitation

Real talk – California has earthquakes. If you have a building constructed prior to 1960, it may not withstand a major seismic event. Design codes are constantly updated to make sure structures stay sound and perform well during an earthquake. Current codes mandate that some types of buildings, such as Unreinforced Masonry (URM) wall structures, be seismically retrofitted regardless of their current condition or use. The codes also mandate owners of existing buildings to seismically evaluate and upgrade their buildings in the case that any new addition, remodel, or change of use is proposed.

We use several retrofitting techniques to enhance the performance of an existing structure, to reduce the loss of property – and potentially save lives.

Retrofit Requirements Enforced in Cities

Cities are in the process now of ensuring that any non-retrofitted buildings be brought up to current safety standards. This doesn’t mean that they need to be re-built, but rather that they need to be retrofitted in a way that will make it so that they are stable, secure, and safe during seismic activity. We work with cities often, and have projects that have passed city standards.

Soft Story Retrofits

Soft-story (or tuck-under parking) is a construction method seen mostly in multi-story apartment buildings where the first floor is used for parking space and the upper floors are supported by thin columns. Buildings with soft story condition lack the resistance needed against the horizontal shaking imposed by an earthquake and can easily collapse when a quake hits – a lesson learnt the hard way in the 1994 Northridge quake. The structural weakness of a soft-story condition can be mitigated by retrofitting; the addition of structural elements (usually shear walls and/or steel frames) that make the building stronger.