Findings, Implications and Progress

The Preliminary Seismic Evaluation of UC Berkeley campus facilities that informed the SAFER program was conducted in two phases.  Phase 1 focused on the central campus and was completed in the summer of 1997.  Phase 2 was completed in the spring of 1998 and primarily covered off-campus structures. In addition, buildings that had been rated Poor or Very Poor prior to the 1997 studies as well as several newer structures not previously rated were reviewed in Phase 2 to confirm their ratings.

Combining known seismic needs and the recommendations in the 1997 Preliminary Seismic Evaluation, Phase 1 Report, seven campus buildings were rated Very Poor and 50 buildings were rated Poor (a ratings explanation is given below). No buildings were downgraded to Very Poor as a result of the 1997 report, but many formerly rated Good or Fair were downgraded to Poor.

In all, Phase 1 results led to 315,000 assignable square feet (ASF) rated Very Poor and 1,610,000 ASF were rated Poor, totaling nearly two million ASF, or 27 percent of campus space. Nearly three-quarters of all campus space was rated Good or Fair.  These figures and the analysis did not include more than 780,000 ASF in seismic projects that were underway in 1997.  Those retrofits - Doe Library steps 1, 2 and 3; 6701 San Pablo; 2607 Hearst; 2401 Bancroft; McCone Hall; Harmon Gym (now Haas Pavilion); and Hearst Memorial Mining have all been completed and the buildings are rated Good.

Phase 2 primarily assessed off-campus structures, but also examined structures that were rated Poor and Very Poor prior to Phase 1 as well as several newer structures not examined during Phase 1. The Berkeley campus has responsibility for approximately 600 buildings, including distant field stations, but the 1997 seismic studies were limited to buildings proximate to the Hayward Fault, including the east hill area, Clark Kerr Campus, Richmond Field Station, and UC Extension facilities in San Francisco. Certain minor buildings such as those used for storage were also not included.

As a result of Phase 2, an additional 38 buildings were rated Poor or Very Poor, putting the total number of identified campus buildings requiring corrective work at 95 (57 plus 38). Three previously unrated wood-frame structures at the Richmond Field Station (Buildings 150, 175, and 180) were rated Very Poor and the rating of 2251 College, an unreinforced masonry building that houses archaeology programs, was downgraded from Poor to Very Poor. At the same time, ratings for a structure at the Smyth-Fernwald complex and the UC Garage were upgraded from Very Poor to Poor. The net result was to increase the total number of Very Poor buildings from seven to nine. The number of Poor buildings totaled 86. The total amount of space requiring retrofit remained approximately 27 percent of the campus’s total assignable square feet.

The 57 buildings rated Very Poor and Poor had a current replacement value exceeding $1 billion. A preliminary estimate of the total cost for seismic retrofit of these 57 facilities was at least $700 million, in 1997 dollars. This estimate included seismic retrofit and associated minimum code upgrades, essential deferred maintenance work that should be performed concurrently with the seismic retrofit construction, demolition/relocation costs, and surge costs (that is, costs to relocate people and programs during construction). These estimates did not include non-seismic interior renovations. Preliminary estimates of available funds indicated that a 20- to 30-year time frame could be required to fund seismic corrections in these buildings. The total cost of the program would escalate to at least $1 billion to $1.2 billion over such a time frame, including assumed inflationary increases.

Twelve years after the launch of the SAFER program, the campus has made significant progress in improving the seismic safety of its facilities. Of the total square footage identified in SAFER as needing upgrade, 60% has been completed or is in progress. Another 10% is scheduled to be retrofitted by 2014. All of the occupied buildings on the central campus that were rated Very Poor have been retrofit.

Since 1997, the campus's capital investment has focused on seismic safety. All state funds allocated to capital work on the campus have been used to improve seismic ratings.  The campus also received $50 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the retrofit of four significant classroom and lab buildings.  Construction on the Berkeley campus has become ubiquitous but the results and investment are worth it; a seismic risk model shows that as of 2006, campus life safety risks have been reduced by half.  Our students, faculty and staff are twice as safe on campus in the event of an earthquake as they were in 1998.

The Rating System

Established campus standards for seismic rehabilitation projects, for new construction, and for hospital construction use performance ratings of GOOD, FAIR, POOR, and VERY POOR. These continue to serve as the backbone of the program.

  • A GOOD seismic performance rating would apply to buildings and other structures whose performance during a major seismic disturbance is anticipated to result in structural and nonstructural damage and/or falling hazards that would not significantly jeopardize life. Buildings and other structures with a GOOD rating would represent an acceptable level of earthquake safety, such that funds need not be spent to improve their seismic resistance to gain greater life safety.
  • A FAIR seismic performance rating would apply to buildings and other structures whose performance during a major seismic disturbance is anticipated to result in structural and nonstructural damage and/or falling hazards that would represent low life hazards. Buildings and other structures with a FAIR seismic rating would be given a low priority for expenditures to improve their seismic resistance and/or to reduce falling hazards so that the building could be reclassified GOOD.
  • A POOR seismic performance rating would apply to buildings and other structures expected to sustain significant structural and nonstructural damage and/or result in falling hazards in a major seismic disturbance, representing appreciable life hazards. Such buildings or structures either would be given a high priority for expenditures to improve their seismic resistance and/or to reduce falling hazards so that the building could be reclassified GOOD, or would be considered for other abatement programs, such as reduction of occupancy.
  • A VERY POOR seismic performance rating would apply to buildings and other structures whose performance during a major seismic disturbance is anticipated to result in extensive structural and nonstructural damage, potential structural collapse, and/or falling hazards that would represent high life hazards. Such buildings or structures either would be given the highest priority for expenditures to improve their seismic resistance and/or to reduce falling hazards so that the building could be reclassified GOOD, or would be considered for other abatement programs, such as reduction of occupancy.