Soft Story Retrofit: The Complete Guide for Property Owners

Those who own property in Los Angeles, as well as first and second-tier municipalities, will often be confused about the retrofitting process. Areas, such as LA are prone to seismic activity. This means that undertaking certain construction projects will be more dangerous than other types.
Buildings that are considered soft-story will need to be reinforced so that the building is preserved and those inside the building are safe. The process will address the oversight of construction that took place when the structure had been built. This means that the building will be safer for the future. Soft-story retrofitting Los Angeles is important for people’s safety.

What Is a Soft Story Building?

The Retrofit1 Team at work at the site of a Soft Story Retrofitting Project in Los Angeles

Many people do not know what a soft-story building is. A soft-story building is one that is not stable if an earthquake were to hit. These are multiple story buildings that are generally apartment buildings and even parking structures.
These buildings were built before the 1980’s when massive earthquakes hit. These buildings, weaknesses were shown during this time. These buildings had serious damage because of the earthquake. This is because people were not knowledgeable about stabilizing doors, windows, and open spaces.
If an earthquake were to occur, this building may collapse because of the flexibility in the floors. The motion of an earthquake can cause a lateral shift in the building. If a floor collapses, it can cause the ones above or below to cave or collapse. This is called a soft-story collapse.

Soft Story Buildings in LA

Retrofitting a Soft Story building in Los Angeles

There are over 8,000 soft-story buildings that are in need of retrofits. This is even after the government has mandated that soft-story buildings be upgraded. It is at this time that the retrofitting companies have been proliferating. Many are thinking about future buildings that will be built.
There are some examples that soft-story retrofitting in Los Angeles will not work. The soft-story multi-apartments. These were very popular. They look like boxes that are located on narrow lots of land. The two floors will hang over the lower floor. The building is generally supported by columns. This allows cars to park underneath the structure. The building can sway and fall directly into the carport, that is why these buildings are no longer able to be used.

Soft-Story Seismic Retrofit

This is the sum of the knowledge that we have taken away from other and previous seismic activity. This means that the people are going to modify the structures that already exist to be more resistant to earthquake activity. This means soil failure and even ground motion. Seismic retrofit is something that needs to be done to ensure the safety of the people of LA.

Soft-Story Program – Mandatory

There is a mandatory program that the city has in place. This is ordinance 183893. This means that the newer standards must be used and updated to all previously existing buildings within the city. The requirements apply to buildings that have the following 

  • Built under codes that were put into place on January 1, 1978. 
  • If the building has a ground or open floor plans that will cause weak, soft, or open wall lines. 
  • If the building has two stories or more with wood frame construction. 

Step-by-Step Soft-story Retrofitting Los Angeles Process

The duration of this project will depend on which building it is and what ordinances will apply to the building. It also will depend on the experience of the architect that is doing the project.
The first step is to hire a duly architect. This means that they are licensed to work in the state. This is the person who will take care of changes.
The next thing is the owner must submit an application to the Department of Safety and Building for retrofit or demolishing. If there has been a previous retrofit, this information must be submitted as well. The plans will be checked with the current standards and then will guide you to get a permit.

Retrofit Cost

You may be wondering how much it would cost to seismically retrofit a property. The cost will vary depending on the hazards that a structure has. The more work it will need, the more it will cost. You can get predictions through architects. Consultations are a great way to ensure that you know what you are looking at spending before the project starts.