Seismic Programming for Campuses

What happens after the earthquake

Shortly before the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, Stanford University embarked on a decade long seismic improvement program for its historic Palo Alto, CA campus. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the effort, which included historic preservation, not just seismic retrofit in 2000. The program began with identifying, through evaluation, buildings that needed immediate repair and those that should be retrofitted in the future. As the analysis techniques and computing tools improved during the life of the decade program, the university’s program was continuously updated to reflect the latest understanding of seismic performance. Buildings were re-evaluated and renovation scopes and priorities adjusted. Today, Stanford operates a Seismic Advisory Committee that sets campus seismic guidelines, works with professional engineers on peer reviews, advises project teams on seismic performance, and manages the post-earthquake response program. The campus maintains a database of structures with their anticipated earthquake performance rating. The seismic engineering guidelines, published here, outline performance objectives, ratings for buildings, and principles for seismic work in the capital program.

Ready when the earthquake strikes

The University of California system has been a leader through their early adoption of seismic ratings and evaluation protocols in the 1970s seismic design guidelines and evaluation protocols. This has resulted in campuses systematically repairing or replacing dozens of buildings across the state achieving enhanced safety and alignment of the system’s expectations for their building performance with the reality of the performance that is expected to be achieved. Some campuses like UC San Diego have gone a step further, and engaged professional engineers to respond after an earthquake strikes. A post-earthquake contract ensures that the institution receives priority response times from designated professionals to assist with building evaluation and re-entry. Like at UCSD, institutions may find it prudent to build redundancy into their post-earthquake plans, creating a roster of several firms.  Post-earthquake programs can vary widely, everything from immediate response after an event, to programs that included facilities staff training, training documentation, and building inventory set up. Each step brings a campus closer to timely operations resumption.

Seismic retrofits concurrent with building maintenance

Regular updating and maintenance of facilities occurs daily on college campuses. At UC Santa Cruz, an large renovation and deferred maintenance program included needed seismic repairs. The project, renovation of nine residential buildings, included HVAC upgrades, ADA upgrades, infill bed renovation, and the seismic improvements. Degenkolb Principal, Holly Razzano said “By combining projects like maintenance and retrofits, campuses can save money and building downtime over doing the projects separately.”