The soft-story Northridge Meadows Apartments complex collapsed during the quake when the weaker ground floor was entirely crushed by the two feet above it, causing so many deaths.
Tuck-under (or soft-story structures) such as the Northridge Meadows Apartments are constructed with a first story that is less robust than the stories above it. The ground level is generally open, whether for a garage (usually the case) or a vast lobby with big windows. The less support for the floors above, the more vulnerable a building is to side-to-side movement from earthquakes. The more solid upper stories tend to compress everything beneath them when the first floor falls, which is dangerous if you are in or near the structure during a quake.
Earthquakes will occur, and they are now impossible to predict. The July 5th Ridgecrest earthquake and its foreshocks were a wake-up call that earthquakes may happen at any moment. Soft-story structures are much more prone to collapse in the turmoil of a major quake.
Since the 1980s, soft-story buildings have not been constructed due to their being phased out in favor of larger multi-story apartments to save room, but many still exist today. Los Angeles passed a law in November of 2015 requiring all residential and commercial buildings with soft-story construction to undergo a mandatory retrofit. The city identified the most vulnerable structures and sent out orders to comply on a monthly basis, depending on the building’s number of floors and apartment units.
- The timeline to comply with this is:
- Two years: submit plans for retrofitting (or demolishing), or provide proof of previous retrofitting.
- 3.5 years: obtain a permit to begin construction (or demolishing)
- Seven years: complete construction
According to the latest data, as of December 2nd, 2019, 810 soft-story buildings are overdue for the first step, implying that they have not submitted plans despite the fact that their deadline has passed. There are lots of structures still pending for the first stage.
How to Find Out if Your Building Needs a Retrofit
You may quickly check whether your building is on that list by going to the Department of Building and Safety’s website. Enter your address details into the search bar and select the “Soft-story Retrofit Program Information” option once your building’s information appears.
What is a soft-story retrofit?
A soft-story retrofit merely extends and reinforces the structure of a building to make it more resistant to earthquakes. The main objective is to ensure that the building remains standing after an earthquake and that everyone in and around it is safe.
The goal of a retrofit is to minimize the influence of side-to-side shaking, which is usually what causes the first floor of soft-story homes to collapse. Existing walls are frequently bolstered, including stucco or drywall with much more durable plywood and securing them to the foundation. Shear walls may also be installed to resist side-to-side wind or earthquake shaking. If you wish to preserve the appearance and functionality of your structure, a steel frame is a more costly alternative.
A retrofit of a soft-story structure is a required safety upgrade for everyone who lives or works in it. If a property owner does not retrofit their structure within the stipulated time period, they are in violation of the law. In some circumstances, failing to follow the retrofit legislation may result in legal problems. If you have any legal worries, consult a lawyer.
How do I retrofit my building?
Your first job is to engage a qualified structural engineer to assess the structural soundness of your structure and recommend any necessary repairs.
To obtain a permit to retrofit your structure, you must submit a structural analysis/calculation package, architectural plans, and structural plans. If you have tenants in units while the building is being constructed, you must submit a tenant habitability plan. A permit is also required, which comes with an expense.
What is the cost of retrofitting?
The cost is determined by the size and scope of the project. Smaller structures typically cost less, while more prominent buildings may cost more to retrofit. However, everyone must follow the program no matter how big or small your structure is.
Retrofitting 360 will be there f or you every step of the way as we work together to retrofit your home’s soft story. Our team of skilled experts will thoroughly examine your building and provide cost-effective solutions to ensure it is safe from earthquakes.