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Protecting Your Building From a Catastrophic Earthquake

Earthquakes happen when tectonic plates shift. This shifting results in seismic waves which can violently shake buildings from side to side and vertically with enormous force. If the building is not strong enough, it may end up having severe damage and in some cases collapsing when a catastrophic earthquake strikes.

Many commercial structures remain at risk of serious damage during a catastrophic earthquake. If your building is constructed in a high intensity earthquake area, it needs to be seismically retrofitted. Retrofitting keeps your commercial/Industrial premises structurally sound when the seismic waves occurs.

Earthquake Resistance in Commercial Buildings

In the event of a catastrophic earthquake, severe damage can be avoided through proper structural reinforcement techniques. Earthquake resistance is, for the most part, done by reinforcing concrete with rebar/steel. Unfortunately, simple steel reinforcement is not adequate in high-risk areas such as California.

The best way to strengthen a building is to keep it from moving by detaching it from the ground. This process is known as base isolation. Base isolation is achieved by placing isolation bearings on the foundation of a building so that the bearings absorb most of the earthquake forces.

These bearings are made using flexible material so they can act as shock absorbers. In this way, the building only sways slightly and doesn’t directly absorb the full impact of seismic waves.

However, this process is also very expensive and not practical for most structures. More practical forms of reinforcing commercial buildings include techniques such as continuity ties and anchoring walls to the roof structure.

Other retrofitting techniques include:

Seismic Retrofit Concrete Tilt-up: Using roof-to-wall anchors and roof nailing to secure structures from collapsing.

Soft Story Retrofitting: Adding steel support moment frames and or shear walls to structures that have an “open face” (such as apartment buildings with ground level parking lots).

Structural Repairs: It would be difficult for a building with structural challenges to resist a catastrophic earthquake. Therefore, such commercial structures should undergo any necessary structural repairs, in addition to roof-to-walls ties, continuity ties and other means of strengthening the structure.

Preparing your building for a catastrophic earthquake is a comprehensive process. You need a seismic retrofit, paired with a high-quality roof and structural repairs to keep the premises safe — and Saunders Seismic can help. We specialize in commercial/industrial grade retrofitting for multiple types of commercial premises. Contact us today to begin improving the stability of your structure.

Posted Under: earthquake preparedness