What Are Soft Story Seismic Retrofits?

soft story

Many property owners in California have unsafe and outdated soft-story building. These buildings often have multiple unsupported openings on the ground floor of the building. This can result in the soft story building crumbling, collapsing, or even causing damage to other surrounding buildings.

Safety Versus Function

Structural engineers and contractors have an important job when it comes to these soft-story buildings. Not only do they need to make sure that they strengthen the property, but depending on the building itself, they also might need to make sure it’s still functional. The best way to make a building earthquake resistant is by erecting a brand new building using modern construction. However, a retrofit might be your only option. It’s important to note that although you can make a building earthquake resistant, you can never guarantee a building is earthquake-proof. Many factors go into the amount of damage an earthquake can cause, from internal systems like plumbing, to external structural concerns dictated by the city itself. Although you can never be earthquake-proof, you can take measures to increase safety in the event of an earthquake.

Why Does California Have More Soft Story Buildings?

California has a higher density of soft-story buildings than any other state in the US. This includes buildings that are wood frames, apartment complexes, parking garages, and office buildings. If they’re structures that tend to be at high risk during an earthquake, why are they so prevalent throughout California?

The biggest reason for this is because of the demand for good functionality and aesthetics. California has seen some of the biggest booms in population growth, as well as some of the biggest needs for major rebuilding. For example, after the earthquake and fire of 1906 in San Francisco, almost the entire city was rebuilt from the ground up. In order to accommodate this growth, they needed a building material that was easy to get their hands on, abundant, and cheap.

Other cities in California followed suit, using the same cheap materials. It also didn’t help that in the 1900s they followed more lax rules about building safety and fire codes.

Now, in 2018, California still features many soft-story buildings, which are in dire need of earthquake retrofitting to ensure that they remain safe in case of an earthquake. If you think you have a soft story building or you want to learn more about a soft story retrofit, contact Saunders Seismic for more information.