California quake points to research advancements in retrofitting older buildings

September 2, 2014 by Purdue University

The 6.0 earthquake that rocked Napa, California, on Aug. 24 is placing the spotlight on efforts by property owners and municipalities to retrofit older buildings and improve their ability to withstand earthquakes.

Researchers affiliated with the Purdue University-led George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) have studied ways to strengthen older masonry- and wood-framed buildings to minimize and save lives.

The city of Los Angeles enacted a law in the early 1980s that required brick buildings to be retrofitted. While many of those retrofitted buildings were damaged in the Napa quake, no lives were lost, according to media reports.

Data recently published by the California Seismic Safety Commission indicates that about 70 percent of the 26,000 brick buildings across California have been seismically retrofitted or demolished, with major cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles requiring action. As many as 8,000 remaining brick buildings are at risk of collapse, data published by the state in 2006 shows.

Smaller cities such as Napa have mandatory rules for retrofitting older buildings, and experts have been reported as saying that might have helped prevent widespread destruction during the recent quake.

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) reports that while damage still occurred in both retrofitted and un-retrofitted buildings in Napa, no retrofitted buildings collapsed.

Some success stories of buildings that implemented cripple wall retrofits were documented, EERI reports. Efforts are underway to collect detailed performance data to understand the effectiveness of implemented retrofits.

Explore further: A look at earthquake's impact on California region

Related Stories

A look at earthquake's impact on California region

August 25, 2014

A strong earthquake rattled a swath of Northern California's wine country in the early hours of Sunday morning, unleashing most of its damage on the city of Napa in the heart of the vineyard-studded region.

Retrofitting earthquake protection could save lives

June 5, 2013

Whether or not a building collapses and claims many lives during an earthquake is a matter of structure and statistics, according to researchers in Turkey. Writing in the International Journal of Emergency Management, civil ...

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.