What Soft-Story Building Owners Need to Know

It was in January of 1994 that a 6.7 magnitude earthquake had hit Los Angeles. This was known as the Northridge Earthquake. It was then that the area had recognized their structural flaw that had been plaguing lots of buildings within the area. Keep in mind that the area is one of the most earthquake-prone cities. The bottom floor of an apartment would collapse. It had two floors above it and all the sixteen residents on the first floor would die from this incident. Why? Well simple, the apartments were a soft-story building.

Many of the homes and buildings in the area have what is known as a soft-story element. These are the houses that are going to be required to partake in the earthquake retrofit program. Many people do not use this term, however, it is not that difficult to understand. A soft-story building is one that has three or more stories. These stories are going to be located over windows, commercial spaces, large doors, and other openings on the ground level. Most of the time, a wall is all that is needed to provide stability to these buildings.

The most common soft-story building is an apartment building with rooms that are located above an open area such as a carport or garage. This building is not going to withstand the forces of an earthquake and they will collapse. Without strengthening the building, the building is prone to structural damage when earthquakes occur. The first floor will be weakest because it doesn’t have the proper support. Beams that are in the open areas are not strong enough to withstand an earthquake and cannot hold the entire building up during an earthquake.

It was in 2015 that the city would pass an ordinance to make sure all soft-story buildings would be redone and undergo a seismic retrofit. This was done to help promote safety and protect the public. Plus, it will help reduce the amount of structural damage that occurs during an earthquake. All buildings built before 1978 are considered soft or smooth-story buildings. There is a list of all buildings that fall under this category and need to have the building done.

Any of the buildings that were built before 1980 will be part of the over thirteen thousand buildings that need to undergo a seismic retrofit. The most affected areas are those in Hollywood, San Fernando Valley, and Westside. These areas are affected the most because they are going to house older buildings. They have a lot of older apartment buildings. They are prone to falling during seismic activity. Any buildings that were constructed from 1950 to 1980 will need to undergo a seismic retrofit.

Seismic Retrofit Process

To ensure that the ordinance is implemented, the buildings that need the seismic retrofit done have been identified and put onto a list. The owners will be notified or have been notified. this is the first process or steps to get the process going. Owners will have two years after they have been notified to submit their plans. They can either retrofit the building or demolish it. However, they need to have their plans within two years. They may also submit the information that shows that the building does not need any retrofitting. However, the entire process must be done within seven years of the initial order.

It is not a difficult process, however, this process takes a lot of attention and even planning. The first step is to get your plans approved by the department. They are going to determine if the plan that you have will follow the new ordinance. Once this plan is approved, construction can begin. Keep in mind that if anyone is going to be affected by the construction, you should give them a notice well in advance. During the process, trenches will be dug and steel beams will replace wooden beams so that the building has support.

The purpose of this is to strengthen the building and make it have less damage during an earthquake. This process involves using connectors and reinforced materials to strengthen stress points throughout the foundation of the building.
Some connectors will help convert any lose connected parts to a unified part. This means that the seismic activity will not be able to tear the building apart as easily. This means less damage to you.

What We Offer

Here at Retrofit1, we are a retrofitting contractor that is based in Los Angeles. We offer the following for you to get the job done.

  1. We offer a site evaluation. This is going to be free of charge. We will have a specialist here at Retrofit1 walk through your property and they will be analyzing your conditions so that they can meet all the necessary measures needed. They will do everything possible to make your meeting comfortable. Plus, after the evaluation, you will get a proposal that has an estimated cost of what you would expect.
  2. If the building needs to undergo construction, you can start your process today. It is simple and free. You will need to get a free evaluation done. This will allow you to get a free estimate of the design and your permit as well.
  3. We are also going to make sure that we are going about the process in the best way for you. We want the process to be as easy and simple as possible. No extras and no gimmicks. Our specialists want what is best for you and your building.
  4. We have designers on hand that will draw up your plans so that once they are approved, construction can start immediately.
  5. We want to offer you the best solution for your wallet as well. We don’t want you to spend an arm and a leg if you don’t have to. We are going to look for the best cost-effective solution for you as well.

At Retrofit1 we aim to please you. We want the job done properly and fairly. We are not going to charge extra fees and labor. We want what is best for the property and your wallet.