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Historical Buildings Are Vulnerable During Seismic Activity

Historical Buildings Are Vulnerable During Seismic Activity

Seismic activity, including earthquakes, are the result of movements of the geological plates that form our Earth’s crust.  Fractures or cracks, usually called faults, are part of those surface plates.  Often, stress builds up along a fault line and eventually the earth moves to relieve the stress.  Sometimes, seismic activity can only be detected by scientific equipment.  Other times, the earth’s movements can be extremely powerful and destructive and will felt by all.  Most older buildings were not designed and built to absorb the powerful rocking and rolling movements.  In the past, California has experienced temblors that have been extremely devastating, causing loss of life, destruction of property, including total collapse, and economic losses in many communities.

California has a rich history that many historic preservation societies work hard to preserve.  There are historic buildings located throughout the state, including those located in San Bernadino, that meet specific preservation requirements.  In order to be considered a historic building, it must fit into at least one of these three categories:

  • Buildings that are the first, the last, the only, or the most significant of its kind in the state.
  • Buildings that are related to a person or a group that had a great historical influence in California.
  • Buildings that are considered to be an exceptional illustration of a specific period or architectural style.  The building could also be considered to be the best surviving work of a notable designer or architect in a particular region.

Most older and historic buildings on the West Coast are extremely vulnerable to seismic activity.  Because many cities and towns in California are located near fault lines, state and local governments are beginning to adopt very stringent requirements for seismic retrofitting all existing buildings that are more than 20-30 years old.

Of course, historic buildings can be retrofitted to survive the mighty forces of an earthquake, however, great care must be taken to ensure the best practices are used in the retrofitting process.   Unfortunately, some of the usual retrofit practices actually damage or destroy the very same traits that make historic buildings valuable, but luckily there are a several different approaches that can be used to strengthen weaker historic buildings.  A number of different people and groups should participate in the retrofit process for historic buildings, including building owners, property managers, possible tenants, and the surrounding communities. Involvement is needed in the initial planning phase, the decision-making process and the subsequent preparations in order to make sure the retrofit goes smoothly.

Experience in recent earthquakes has demonstrated that historic buildings that have gone through the seismic retrofitting process survive better than those that have not.  A professional contractor with experience in retrofitting historic buildings will typically recommend several rather simple efforts to provide the extra strength needed to survive strong seismic activity. Simple steps such as anchoring brick walls at the highest roof level, tying buildings to foundations so the building cannot shift, and bracing parapets have proven be very successful during recent quakes.

In addition, it is not surprising that statistics can be found that show how well-maintained buildings fare better during and after powerful seismic movement. It makes sense that those buildings that are not maintained will not be strong enough to withstand the rocking and rolling of strong underground activity.  Regularly scheduled building maintenance and a retrofit are both major considerations when planning the necessary protection of any historic building in the San Bernadino area.

Having a professional and experienced team in place is especially important when planning for any seismic retrofit.  In fact, it is imperative that building owners or property managers hire seismic retrofitting contractors who have specialized experience in retrofitting historical buildings to ensure that the job is done safely and correctly.

If your historical property is located in San Bernadino, call Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofit today to find out whether your property needs to be strengthened and reinforced before the next BIG ONE occurs!

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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