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Tips for Voluntary Structural Seismic Wall Bracing

Tips for Voluntary Structural Seismic Wall Bracing

Due to advancements in engineering, technology and safety expectations, many commercial properties do not meet today’s building code standards. Earthquake retrofitting is the process of strengthening a building to meet the most current state and local building code requirements.  Retrofitting typically involves seismic wall bracing, structural roof repairs, reinforcement of shear walls and fire sprinkler piping, along with a number of other steps.  In many parts of California, including Los Angeles, earthquake retrofitting is necessary because most buildings are more than ten years old and were constructed using certain methods such as un-reinforced masonry or concrete tilt-up.

For many property owners and managers, the thought of any construction process that may involve an occupied building is seen as a headache they would much rather delay than complete.  Communications between owners, contractors and especially tenants can be notoriously complicated. Putting off necessary building improvements such as seismic wall bracing, however, can be just plain dangerous; older buildings are a hazard on their own and to the surrounding properties.  Many cities today require seismic bracing; the City of Berkeley, the City of San Diego, and City of Burbank, and the City of Los Angeles all realize the danger of commercial properties built more than ten years ago.  These cities and others have passed city ordinances mandating building owners to retrofit their buildings for earthquakes.  Finding a professional contractor is a necessary task but there are a few tips for Los Angeles property owners to consider to help avoid unnecessary hassles and expense for voluntary structural seismic wall bracing.

Choose seismic contractors, not general contractors, for structural and earthquake retrofit work.

There are many general construction companies that claim to be experts in earthquake retrofitting.  Unfortunately, their specialized experience in this area is minimal compared to that of an earthquake retrofitting specialist.  An earthquake retrofit requires very specific training and experience in the selection and installation of the appropriate materials.  Selecting a “generalist” to perform the retrofit may seem to be more convenient initially, but in the long run, the decision to go with a general contractor can be quite costly, with the results falling short of your ultimate expectations.  When choosing a contractor for an earthquake retrofit, be sure to consider these key points:

  • Review the earthquake retrofit contractor’s testimonial pages for evidence of prior clients with positive comments.  Look for clients whose expectations were met – clients who had their work performed right the first time, without additional delays or expense and with successful final inspections. Often, commercial property owners go through structural repairs in order to improve their insurance rates or marketability. Therefore, a successful final inspection will help attain the primary goal.

  • If a building in the Los Angeles area is considered to be an historical property, it is important to make sure you work only with experienced specialty contractors.  Historical buildings have their own unique set of civic standards that must be followed; these local standards are over and above the safety engineering requirements in state building codes.  Historical societies have a low tolerance for damage or modification to a building’s structure, roof, façade, or interior.  Make sure that every crew member that works with the contractor you choose has experience in working on historical buildings.

  • Commercial property owners have a responsibility to protect the safety of all the occupants of the building.  Regular building maintenance and necessary structural repairs can protect owners and REIT shareholders from litigation.

  • It is important for your lender to be aware of the structural bracing and other earthquake retrofitting changes completed on your building.  In most cases, an earthquake retrofit will reduce your building’s PML rate and thus, the risk to the lender.  If your building is on the market, a low PML rating will help to sell it faster and at a higher price, typically compensating for the cost of the retrofit.

Voluntary seismic wall bracing with specialist contractors makes the best financial and safety sense.

Saunders Commercial Seismic Commercial Retrofit serves the Los Angeles area with specialized processes for historical and occupied buildings. Structural changes will improve the value of your commercial property and the safety of the occupants.  To get more information on contractors who specialize in seismic wall bracing and structural repair in Los Angeles, call our experienced team today!

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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