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Many Occupied Buildings May Need an Earthquake Retrofit

Many Occupied Buildings May Need an Earthquake Retrofit

There are many occupied commercial properties throughout California, including those in the San Francisco Bay area, that need to be strengthened in order to withstand the devastating forces of a very powerful earthquake.  Most of those properties were built in the last century when state and local building codes were not so stringent.  Because of the potential destruction and safety concerns related to the violent forces of an earthquake, there are many Bay area properties that should be scheduled for a thorough inspection to determine if an earthquake retrofit is necessary.  Many sizeable business operations, not to mention apartment buildings and healthcare facilities, are occupied around the clock, seven days a week, which makes major maintenance more challenging to complete.

There are so many things to consider when a commercial building requires major updates and repairs.  Property owner are faced with difficult decisions that could impact the future safety of their tenants and businesses, not to mention the day-to-day business operations.  One such maintenance project is an earthquake retrofit to strengthen the building structure.

Commercial property owners often believe that a retrofit project is impossible to consider for buildings that are currently occupied, so they make the decision to hold off beginning a retrofit until their building is empty – at some point in the future.   Other property owners believe that a retrofit cannot be completed without closing down some parts of the building and moving residents or commercial tenants to other places for a lengthy period of time.  It is certainly easier to work through a commercial property earthquake retrofit while completing necessary re-roofing maintenance or when the building is vacant; however, it is very possible to complete an earthquake retrofit project with little disruption to most regular tenant operations.  It order to do so, a commercial property owner must hire an experienced contractor with a team that specializes in earthquake retrofitting to do the work.

Why is a specialized contractor necessary for occupied buildings?

A contractor who has experience retrofitting occupied buildings recognizes that day-to-day operations cannot be disrupted; major disruptions often cause critical customer or tenant complaints.  Specialized earthquake retrofit contractors generally employ a team of skilled professionals to work effectively and efficiently to complete the necessary work.  In fact, earthquake retrofit contractors work diligently to respect the client’s needs and expectations, making every attempt to ensure little negative impact is experienced by residents, workers, and customers.

When the decision is made to schedule a commercial earthquake retrofit for an occupied building, property owners and building managers should consider these guidelines during the initial planning stages of the project to make sure the job is completed with minimal impact to tenants and businesses:

  • Make sure that your contractor is aware upfront that you expect professional behavior at all times.
  • Make sure your contracting team knows that safe work habits are expected at all times, ensuring their own safety as well as the safety of co-workers, tenants, employees and customers.
  • Because the building will be occupied while work is being done, tenants should be given ample notice regarding all the steps planned for the earthquake retrofit project.  Be sure to consider tenant suggestions and concerns in the efforts to reduce any possible disruptions in their day-to-day operations.
  • Plan in advance for any necessary protection of the furnishings within the building; they will need to be protected in order to avoid any risk of damage to important items.   Noise and dust generated by drilling walls is definitely an inconvenience to most occupants; you and your chosen contractor will need to evaluate the best places to set up necessary tools, protective sheeting, and walkways.

Many commercial property owners may not initially believe that hiring experienced, rather than general, contractors is the most cost effective way to handle an earthquake retrofit.  The good news, however, is that choosing a specialized earthquake retrofit contractor will save both time and money.  The requirements and conditions for earthquake retrofitting are different for each commercial property.  Most general contractors do not have the experience necessary to adequately fulfill all of the specifications needed to thoroughly complete the entire project. Hiring a contractor with the necessary retrofitting knowledge and experience will help ensure that the job scope is accurately defined and the retrofit is completed appropriately.

While major maintenance, such as earthquake retrofitting, may be justified for a variety of reasons, the best reason is to ensure the safety and security of all the property’s occupants.  Sadly, we now know that many buildings constructed around the dangerous fault lines of throughout California were not built to be strong enough to withstand the force of powerful earthquake activity.  Maintenance must be done sooner rather than later to bring those buildings up to the current safety codes.  If you have an occupied commercial property in the San Francisco/Oakland area that needs to be strengthened to meet the current building safety codes or if you would like to work with professionals who have specialized earthquake retrofitting experience, call Saunders Commercial Earthquake Retrofit today!


Northern California Office

(408) 267-3876

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