Thanks to the recent Seattle Times article, Buildings that kill: The earthquake danger lawmakers have ignored for decades, earthquake awareness in Seattle has returned to the public attention. As we look for ways to ensure our personal safety and that of our families, the City of Seattle is close to enacting ordinances to reduce the risk posed by these buildings.
Brick buildings built prior to 1940, without internal steel reinforcement and inadequate ties and connections between the floors and the supporting walls, are commonly known as URMs, unreinforced masonry. These buildings to be particularly vulnerable to damage during earthquakes.
Following major earthquakes that caused significant damage to URM building stock, both San Francisco and Los Angeles enacted mandatory seismic upgrade ordinances. These upgrades serve to reduce the risk to the public and help to reduce the damage to buildings protecting the owner’s investment and maintaining the historic fabric of the city.
Developing the Ordinance
In support of the proposed URM retrofit ordinance, Seattle recently released a survey of existing URM buildings within City limits. This survey identified approximately 1,160 URM buildings within the City boundaries; since only 25% of these buildings have undergone some level of seismic upgrade, a large majority would require strengthening to meet the retrofit ordinance.
While the ordinance has not yet been approved, seismic upgrade of URM buildings reduces the risk to public safety. Degenkolb is actively involved in helping the City develop the ordinance and is available to assist building owners to determine whether past seismic upgrades will meet these new codes or if one of the prescriptive approaches is applicable. For more information, please visit degenkolb.com.