Earthquake retrofitting is the process of strengthening a building that may not meet the current building safety codes. The retrofitting process involves seismic wall bracing, reinforcement of shear walls and fire sprinkler piping, structural roof repairs, and more. In the California Bay Area, earthquake retrofitting is necessary on most buildings that are more than 10 years old or were constructed using specific methods such as concrete tilt-up or un-reinforced masonry.
Any construction process that may involve an occupied building is difficult to coordinate and most property owners or managers will procrastinate getting the job done. Communications between owners and contractors can be extremely complicated. Putting off necessary building improvements like seismic wall bracing in the Bay Area can be dangerous in the long run; old buildings are often not strong enough to withstand a devastating earthquake. In essence, these older buildings are unsafe places to work and they are hazardous to surrounding buildings. Increasing safety is the primary reason why so many cities have passed ordinances requiring commercial property owners to retrofit their buildings for potential seismic activity.
To begin the process of strengthening a commercial property, building owners and managers must find a professional and experienced contractor. Finding the right contractor may take a little time and effort, but it is a necessary task in order to avoid unnecessary hassles and expenses for any voluntary structural seismic bracing.
Be sure to choose seismic contractors, rather than general contractors, for structural and seismic work on your commercial property. While many general construction companies claim to be experts in seismic retrofit, their experience in this area is minimal compared to that of a real specialist. A seismic retrofit requires specific experience in the selection and installation of the appropriate material by properly trained and skilled crew members. Selecting a “generalist” to perform the retrofit may be more convenient but can be quite costly and the results may not meet your expectations.
- Be sure to request references and review the seismic contractor’s testimonial pages. Ask questions, such as was their work performed right the first time, was the work completed without additional delays or expense, and were inspections completed successfully? Many times owners go through seismic structural repairs in order to improve their insurance rates or marketability. Ask references if they achieved their specific goals, such as reducing insurance rates or selling a property.
- If your Bay Area building is located in Oakland and considered to be historical, make sure you only work with experienced specialty contractors. These buildings have their own particular set of local standards that must be adhered to, above and beyond the safety and engineering requirements. Historical societies have minimal patience for damage and they typically do not approve any modification to a building’s structure, roof, facade, or interior. Every crew member that works with the contractor you choose should be experienced in working on historical buildings.
- Voluntary structural repairs can protect property owners and REIT shareholders from potential litigation. Owners have a responsibility to protect the safety of the occupants of their building. Working with experienced contractors who are knowledgable in building safety and can adequately address this issue may even result in a discount if they offer package rates.
- Be sure to communicate any changes being made to your building with your lender, including voluntary seismic structural bracing. Seismic retrofitting may reduce your building’s PML rate and therefore reduce the risk to the lender. If your property is on the market, a low PML will typically help it sell quicker and at a higher price, which usually compensates for the cost of the retrofit.
Working with specialist contractors to complete a voluntary seismic wall bracing process makes the best sense, from both a financial and safety perspective. Saunders Commercial Earthquake Retrofit serves the California Bay Area with specialized processes for historical and occupied buildings. These structural changes improve the value of your asset and the safety of the occupants. To get more information on seismic wall bracing and structural repairs in the Bay Area, call Saunders Commercial Earthquake Retrofit Bay Area today!