There are plenty of newly founded retrofitting companies around, but you can hardly find a formal accrediting agency or certification process for seismic retrofitting and engineers. After so many significant earthquakes and seismic activities in the area of California, a number of government agencies, university research groups, and private engineers made intensive inspections of collapsed structures and buildings to identify their weaknesses. After the famous earthquake of 1994, LA city officials spent two years assessing the damage and compiling a list of the most vulnerable buildings. They designed new building ordinances and rolled out their mandatory soft-story retrofit program to ensure the stability and safety of more buildings in the next earthquake.
Techniques use in an earthquake retrofit of an existing building have come from all of the research. So meanwhile there are no formal certifications there are training programs available through the CA Seismic Safety Commission and the International Conference of Building Officials. When choosing an LA earthquake retrofit company do more researches before hiring them.
Building Permit Before Starting Earthquake Retrofit
Like most construction projects you will need a permit before beginning any work. Applying for a seismic retrofit permit requires you to put together some documentation first. You will, of course, need to fill out the application, have a detailed plan of the work to be done to submit, and pay the plan check fee. It typically takes up to 38 days to have your application approved. But, if the city engineer who checks your plan does not find that it meets current codes, it will be sent back to you for corrections.
You can avoid this by hiring a professional earthquake retrofit company that will have a contractor draw up the work plan for you. They will also submit all of the paperwork and deliver the permit to you once it is issued. This is one of the many benefits of not doing this yourself, a qualified contractor will know what the city building codes are and what the city officials expect, so the application will be approved the first time it is submitted.
Bolts For Soft-Story Building
The bolts for your soft-story building are sufficient to keep the structure stable. In most cases, bolting and bracing are needed. Without proper support, your building could easily collapse during an earthquake.
If your building was constructed before 1990, then the bolts used will not be up to the current code requirements. The standard distance for still bolts used to be at intervals of six feet, today’s standards require larger bolts placed at closer intervals. And other types of hardware, like hold-downs or used now to prevent separation from the foundation during seismic activity.
It is not just the bolt you need to worry about. After the Northgate earthquake of 1994, the newer building codes require larger, thicker, square plate washers in place of the usual round washers. The new, larger washers help to anchor the sill from the top, clamping it down, instead of just relying on the strength of the bolt to keep the building attached to its foundation. After the 1994 earthquake officials found that many of the holes for the bolts were drilled too big in diameter, the newer, square washers help compensate for this.
You will also want to have your building inspected to make sure the bolts haven’t decayed. Nothing lasts forever, even steel. Over time it degrades and loses its strength, or it can rust and thus it will no longer provide the support as it was intended. Most of the time you can’t see the decay from the outside since it tends to appear inside the concrete first.
Insurance Premiums After Earthquake Retrofit
Will your insurance premiums go down after earthquake retrofit? This is a question you should ask your insurance agent. Practices in the industry change over time, so we would not be able to give you a definitive answer to this one. The California Earthquake Authority, which provides the earthquake insurance through most of the major companies, will reduce homeowner’s earthquake coverage by 5% after the retrofit is complete. In the case of commercial buildings, it is best to call your insurance agent and check with them.
Value Of Your Property After Retrofitting
Like most cases, the value of your property depends on a couple of variables which means the value of your property may, but sometimes can not change. Read more about the possible price changes for your property in our other article.
Two things to consider are the current market conditions and the earthquake consciousness of any potential buyer. An earthquake retrofit does add a great feature to add to the list of benefits of your property, and in southern California where earthquakes are the norm, rather than the unusual, it could make your property more appealing.
You also need to consider the type of building you own, residential versus commercial. In the case of residential property, the answer may be no since it is hard to make back the cost of the retrofit in the selling price. In the cases of commercial buildings, the opposite is true, as it is a good selling point since the new owner will not have to put out the costs to have it done. But bear in mind that the reason to have the retrofit in the first place is not to increase the value of your property, but rather to increase the safety of the building to protect what is really valuable, the people inside.
How Long Will It Take To Complete The Retrofit?
The amount of time needed to complete the job will depend on the size of your building and how much work needs to be done. Does it have a lot of empty spaces, like a basement or crawl spaces? Does it have a parking garage? What is the building used for? All of these factors can affect how long the actual construction phase will last.
On average, a small apartment complex of four to six units, with a parking garage, could take as few as two weeks. While larger buildings, with multiple floors, could take up to a month or more. Your contractor from the Los Angeles retrofitting company you hire will include a time frame in the first report he gives you along with the work plan and estimated cost.
Planning An Earthquake Retrofitting
As you have learned by now, there are a lot of variables that go into planning an earthquake retrofitting of a building. You simply cannot complete this type of job by yourself. Choosing a qualified Los Angeles seismic retrofit company can make all the difference. AOB has been performing these types of retrofits throughout the Los Angeles area. Our professionally trained contractors will guide you through every step of the process, from the first consultation right up to the final inspection. We take all of the guesswork and stress out of the project allowing you to continue to live your life as usual. Contact us today to speak to one of our friendly staff and schedule a consultation today.