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Use Structural Experts to Complete an Earthquake Retrofit

Use Structural Experts to Complete an Earthquake Retrofit

Are you considering an earthquake retrofit to strengthen you commercial property?  Are you ready to hire a contractor to make this building maintenance project a reality?  Consider the following tips as contractors compete for your business.

Many contractors will claim to be “earthquake retrofit experts”, but really only a very select few can honestly make this statement and then support it with evidence and customer testimonials. In our current competitive times, it’s important to not only award this type of large-scale project based on competitive pricing, but also to qualify a contractor based on experience working in occupied buildings, past performance, insurance coverage, and safety performance. These are all equally vital components to a successful earthquake retrofit project.

Be sure you are comparing “apples to apples” when considering bids for a major maintenance construction project, such as an earthquake retrofit.  One way to get similar proposals is to provide consistent and similar bidding instructions to all potential bidders.

When awarding an earthquake retrofit project to a contractor, these four criteria should be used in your qualifying process:

  • Competitive pricing that encompasses the scope indicated in the plans, and associated/anticipated costs to complete the work without any unexpected additional costs coming up before the project is completed.

  • Experience, including past performance and evidence of working in occupied buildings successfully.

  • Insurance coverage that meets the building owner’s minimum requirements.

  • A positive safety record as indicated by the safety mod rate and a well written IIPP (Injury and Illness Protection Program).


Of course, not all contractors are alike. Most earthquake retrofit projects are completed in occupied buildings, therefore commercial property owners should look for structural experts with specific retrofit experience.  Occupied buildings need to be handled with a sensitivity towards the tenant’s day-to-day operations, therefore those special challenges should be left to those with experience in this particular type of work.

Many contractors traditionally focus on “new construction”, so it is entirely possible that most bidding contractors will not have the experience that an earthquake retrofit in an occupied building demands. There are specific methods that an experienced earthquake retrofit contractor employs to execute their work in an efficient manner with minimal disruption to the tenants’ operations.

A commercial property owner that chooses a contractor based on past performance and experience working in occupied buildings will position themselves to achieve the best performed retrofit for the most competitive price. Depending on the structural engineer chosen to complete the design plans, enhancements can be added that may increase the construction expense close to sixty percent.  When considering a commercial earthquake retrofit, it is important to understand that spending more on construction costs does not necessarily translate into building a stronger structure. Without adequately qualifying contractors, a property owner could leave themselves exposed to an array of less than positive outcomes for their project, including unhappy tenants.

Insurance Coverage:

It is important to determine the contractor’s type of insurance coverage as well as the coverage limits.  You will need to know the replacement value of your property, as that amount should dictate the minimum liability insurance coverage your chosen contractor carries.  In general, not all contractors carry the same limits; for your protection, follow the rule of “the more coverage the better”.  All owner entities must be listed on the contractor’s insurance certificate as additional insured, prior to the start of the project. It is also very important to note that insurance is only binding when there is a contract between the owner and contractor; be sure that all necessary paperwork is completed properly before the work begins.

Safety Mod Rate:

Contractors need to provide competitive pricing, but they also need to ensure that the earthquake retrofit work will be performed in a safe manner. This means providing a safe environment for both the construction workers and the tenants’ employees.  Every contractor has a safety mod rate to reflect their safety record for at least the last three years. The lower the mod rate, the better the contractor’s safety record.  Property owners should ask for a complete list of training provided to the contractor’s employees; in addition, they should request a copy of the contractors’ Injury and Illness Protection Program.

We have all heard stories about property owners and businesses choosing to have maintenance work done at the lowest cost possible. When contracting for an earthquake retrofit, be sure to remember that if it is not done correctly upfront, you may not discover any issues until the retrofit fails during an earthquake.  By then—it is too late!

If you have questions about commercial earthquake retrofitting in the Los Angeles area or would like to learn more about how to protect your Los Angeles real estate property from an earthquake, call Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofit today.  Our professional team has the expertise to work with you and your tenants to get the best quality and value for your earthquake retrofit.

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034



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