Do You Need Property Retrofitting Services?

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Many larger buildings, including apartment complexes and condominiums, are considered soft-story buildings. This means that there are three or more stories located on top of a large space, such as a parking garage or retail store. This means that the bottom story, or the soft story, may not be stable enough to support the weight of the higher floors. This makes them vulnerable to collapse during earthquakes, which are common in the Los Angeles, CA area.

Property retrofitting services are designed to resolve this problem. With soft-story retrofitting, Omega Structural, Inc. can add stabilization to your structure to make sure it's compliant with local ordinances.

Get in touch with us today to talk about all of your options.

Soft Story Retrofitting In Earthquake Prone L.A

Under the mandatory City of Los Angeles Retrofit Ordinance 183893 and Ordinance 184081, property owners who own soft story buildings (buildings with "tuck under" parking spaces) are ordered to retrofit these seismically compromised parts of these buildings. Without this type of reinforcement, these buildings are more susceptible to structural failure during an earthquake.

Soft-story retrofitting may seem like a large-scale task, which can send a lot of property owners running in the other direction. However, if you don't get property retrofitting services, it's possible that...

1. Your insurance company may drop you:

Due to the risk of innate deficiency of soft story buildings to withstand high magnitude quakes, insurance companies and lenders take this fact into account when considering you for a loan, refinancing, etc. The condition of the building greatly accounts in the calculation of PML or probable maximum loss calculations.

As a result, many soft story owners will find themselves paying significantly higher premiums to insure their buildings. Underwriters may simply deny coverage altogether if the building does not meet the retrofit requirements.

2. You'll face significant fines and penalties from your jurisdiction or a potential lien:

The City of Los Angeles has sent out thousands of Orders to Comply with the retrofit ordinances. It is imperative that these notices do not go ignored. If the deadline to pull the building permit and begin construction is not satisfied before the deadline, the city will penalize you and even become the target of the city attorney!

3. You won't be able to rent your property:

California law states that building owners are responsible for the structural integrity of their buildings, even if they are unaware of any existing deficiencies. This means that the death or injury of a tenant during an earthquake falls under the responsibility of the owner and could have been avoided if the owner took the appropriate steps to mitigate structural flaws prior to an earthquake.

A Glimpse Back at History

The 1994 Northridge earthquake, with a force of 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit major parts of the San Fernando valley, destroying homes, apartment buildings, and even tearing freeways apart. Soft story buildings at ground level have less wall (such as perimeter wall), interior wall, or other bracing to resist the lateral forces that might be imposed by an earthquake. When an earthquake comes and hits, it moves the ground horizontally and vertically, but it is the horizontal motion that is most concerning. The movement tries to push the ground floor over and there is not much to keep it from moving or degrading. It might consequently collapse due to lack of support.

It is important to prevent further tragedies like the one that echoes so strongly in our hearts to this day. If we can do our part in making our communities safer by retrofitting these compromised buildings, that will mean there will be less casualties in the future.

Engineering Solutions for Soft Story Buildings

There are a handful of ways to retrofit your building. They each have their unique design but all methods have the same goal at the end of the day: To seismically secure your building.

Some of the approaches commonly used is:

Special Moment Frames:

Special Moment Frames are used to reinforce larger soft story buildings. This method consists of installing the frame and connecting it to new foundation footings. Moment frames are easier to repair if damaged during an earthquake. Its ability to absorb seismic shock during an earthquake is quite impressive. However, moment frames are not the most cost friendly solutions and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Wood Frame Shear Walls:

Shear walls are the most cost-effective engineering solutions. The walls have resistance to lateral forces during an earthquake, as they do not bend so easily. The shear walls prevent the walls from separating and causing the building to collapse. The walls are anchored and installed to existing wall segments to the foundation thus taking weight off the building.

Pre Fabricated Shear Walls:

Steel Shear walls are a similar reinforcing method to wood framed shear walls. Simpson Strong-Tie and MiTek Industries manufacture these types of walls. They are more resistant to lateral forces than regular wood framed walls and is a good solution for parking areas that have a low clearance, this solution will make sure that tenant parking is not compromised during construction

Steel Beams:

Steel or grade beams behave similarly to shear walls. The weight of the building falls onto the beams supported by the foundation. This may be a costly way to go about retrofitting your property since high quality steel is used to create the beam.

Steel Cantilever Columns:

Cantilever I-Beams are one of the most popular retrofitting methods these days. Cantilever beams are more suitable for smaller buildings. However, the existing wood frame of the building has to be in good standing. During an earthquake, the wood components will be pushed up against the steel columns which may cause them to break or get damaged.

Design and Build with Omega Structural Inc.

Omega Structural Inc, believes in providing quality engineering designs that adhere to code and minimizes costs for our clients and provides the most sturdy and resistant solutions.

We want to give you quality construction and engineering work that is worth every penny you invest into your building. We want to be your qualified professional capable of not just doing seismic retrofit for an affordable price but one that is knowledgeable on city codes relating to seismic and soft story retrofitting.

What to expect from our services

You can count on our experienced specialists to handle your soft-story retrofitting job with superior skill and focus. Firstly, we'll determine the best way to strengthen your building. We strive to come up with solutions that are both effective and non-intrusive to the building's structure. Then, we'll either:

  • Install steel frames
  • Add more walls for extra support
  • Replace unstable walls with sturdier materials

By the time we're done, your building will be much safer in the event of an earthquake. You'll relax under your roof when you know it's held up by a reinforced base. Our experts are happy to give local property owners peace of mind. Reach out to us today with any questions about our soft-story retrofitting process in the Los Angeles, CA area.