Are Brittle Concrete Buildings Less Safe in an Earthquake?

Over the last few decades, researchers and seismologists have gained more knowledge about earthquakes and building collapses.  One of the biggest reasons for building collapse in the United States is older designs that do not reflect current engineering standards, or in some cases construction flaws. Concrete buildings are among the structures most vulnerable to collapse in an earthquake, but concrete repair can improve your building’s safety.

Brittle Concrete Buildings Collapse More Often

Brittle concrete buildings often lack structural integrity. Some designs use steel rebar improperly, which can cause columns in a building to burst outward and results in collapse. Too little steel will allow concrete to break free from the columns, but adding steel rebar near the top and bottom of a column can help keep concrete in place. Concrete repair restores structural integrity to commercial buildings. A seismic company will examine the actual structure of the column jacketing — a key factor in the integrity of a concrete building — and make necessary repairs.


Does Building Design Matter?

If you’ve ever had a building that needed concrete repair, you know that some building designs are stronger than others. A poor design can easily fail during an earthquake, especially if a building features rebar wrapped around the outside vertical rebar in a column.

If concrete has already fallen off of your building or columns, you will need concrete repair services. But concrete repair may not solve the reason the concrete is failing — in fact, it may just cover up bigger issues. If you want a permanent, reliable solution, you should seek out a company that can perform seismic retrofitting of concrete structures.

In addition, if your building is one of Los Angeles’s 1500 brittle concrete buildings, you are not just encouraged but required to seek out retrofitting. In 2015, the L.A. city council set a 30-year deadline for those with brittle concrete buildings to get them retrofitted. Once your building is retrofitted, you will meet the criteria for this mandate.


Whether you need concrete repair, retrofitting, or answers to your questions about how your building’s design might handle an earthquake, visit Saunders Seismic for more information.