Everything You Need to Know About Soft-Story Retrofit

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 resulted in 50+ deaths, injured at least 9000 people, and displaced 20,000 people from their homes. An apartment complex in Northridge with a weaker ground floor was crushed entirely, resulting in 16 deaths. 

Earthquakes devastate people’s lives and also destroy their shelter. As such, if Los Angeles encounters a big earthquake in the future, the fatality rate would be higher, and at least 3 lakh people could be displaced. In the meantime, soft-story buildings have the first story weaker than the other stories above them.

Though soft-story buildings constructed in the 80s have been phased out in large numbers, a few of them still exist in the city. As such, in 2015, a mandatory soft-story retrofit program law was passed, and several buildings were considered vulnerable. Consequently, soft-story retrofit in Los Angeles, CA, is not optional, and it is a law that citizens must abide by.

Check Out the Timeline to Know About the Rule Precisely

Property owners in Los Angeles will have seven years after being informed about retrofitting. The first two years allow the building owners to submit retrofitting plans and require proof of earlier retrofitting. In the next 3.5 years, it is essential to get a permit and commence construction or demolition. As such, seven years is the timeframe for building owners to get their properties retrofitted as per the rule.  

Though the ordinance was passed several years ago, at least one thousand soft-story buildings haven’t submitted the plans, and the deadline has already passed. Moreover, 588 structures are still due to complete the first step. More than 10,000 soft-story buildings are in the retrofitting program, but less than 4000 have finished their construction. Surprisingly, thousands of buildings are not yet retrofitted, and people haven’t understood the importance of soft-story retrofit in Los Angeles, CA.

Does Your Building Need a Retrofit?

In 2016, letters were sent to find all the buildings that needed a retrofit. So, your building needs a retrofit if the building or building’s address is on the list of soft-story buildings that Los Angeles has informed.  

Retrofitting Your Soft-Story Building

Though the term sounds technical, a soft-story retrofit is about adding and reinforcing the building’s structure to hold up well in an earthquake. The main aim is to ensure that the building endures the earthquake and stands still, keeping everyone safe. Hence, if you retrofit your building, people in and around the building will be safe during an earthquake. The side-to-side shaking effect triggers the collapse of soft-story buildings, where retrofitting comes to aid.

The existing walls are strengthened using solid plywood or new shear walls (to endure side-to-side shaking effect during an earthquake). The steel frame is the luxurious choice to retrofit your building, but the aesthetics and functionality make it worth the money you splurge. Moreover, the engineers will evaluate the property’s condition to offer more options.

Soft-story retrofit is a mandatory investment to keep the people safe in and around the soft-story building. And if a property owner doesn’t retrofit the building, they might face legal consequences for breaking the law.  

So if you want to retrofit your building, hire a well-trained structural engineer. The experts will evaluate the building’s strength and check for structural inclusions to make your soft-story building safe during an earthquake. And you can choose the right company that offers cost-effective solutions for your soft-story buildings.