Getting Ready For the Big One
Ten Years After Loma Prieta, Campus Makes Progress Toward Seismic Stability
Posted October 20, 1999
Ten years after Loma Prieta, the Berkeley campus is in the midst of a $1 billion plus, 20-year seismic retrofit program to make its buildings safer from the dangers of a major earthquake. And with the latest predictions for a temblor in mind, the effort could not come any sooner.
"The new data on the Hayward fault, showing an increase in the probability of a major earthquake in the next 30 years, makes our efforts to seismically strengthen our buildings on campus extremely important," said Edward Denton, vice chancellor for capital projects.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists last week announced a 70 percent chance of a major earthquake in the Bay Area in the next 30 years. The probability of a rupture on the Hayward fault -- 32 percent -- is greater than that for the much more talked about San Andreas, at 21 percent. The Hayward's northern stretch has not had a major quake since between 1640 and 1776, and is overdue for major shaking.
The Hayward Fault runs directly under Memorial Stadium and is cause for serious concern. Some seismologists predict the Hayward fault is the most likely Bay Area fault to cause widespread damage, because of the population located on or near it.
During the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake on the San Andreas fault, the campus shook violently, as did most of the Bay Area, but was spared the widespread damage that Oakland and San Francisco experienced.
The Berkeley campus got off lucky -- that time.
Aware of the potential for disaster, Berkeley began a seismic evaluation of all its buildings in 1997. Some seismic retrofitting work had already begun in the wake of Loma Prieta, but a more concentrated, planned effort was needed. The resulting detailed engineering study showed that 27 percent of campus space was rated "poor" or "very poor" and in need of corrective work.
In the fall of 1997, Chancellor Berdahl launched SAFER, a comprehensive response plan to make campus buildings seismically stable.
"The fact of the matter is that UC Berkeley is a central economic driving force for California and the nation, and one of the country's most important educational and research institutions," Berdahl said in announcing the plan. "If UC Berkeley were put out of business by an earthquake, recovery for the state and the region would be hindered, and the impact locally and nationally would be felt for years afterward."
SAFER, short for Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal, is a 10-point plan. Six of those points have been completed or are under way, including the hiring of Denton, whose duties include overseeing aspects of SAFER.
In the last 14 months, major projects have been completed at the Goldman School of Public Policy, the dance facility at 2401 Bancroft, McCone Hall, Haas Pavilion and 6701 San Pablo Ave. (the Marchant Building).
The Hearst Memorial Mining Building is in the midst of a seismic retrofit and historic renovation, using base-isolation technology for the first time on campus. The retrofit and renovation of Barker Hall is scheduled to begin in January 2000, when a seismic retrofit of Wurster Hall will also begin. Planning is under way for the upgrade of 2251 College (anthropology), LeConte Hall and Memorial Stadium.
Many of these upgrades are state-funded. One of SAFER's action points is to obtain funding from other sources for seismic safety improvements. To that end, the campus was awarded four grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in October 1998. About $42 million was awarded for the upgrade of Silver Lab and Hildebrand, Latimer and Barrows Halls.
FEMA regulations stipulate the projects have to be completed in three years, a very short time frame for the campus. Construction on two of the projects is scheduled to begin in May 2000. The other two will begin in the fall 2000.
Seismic renovations will continue for the next 20 years.
"We have made great progress in the last two years," Denton said, "but still have a lot of work ahead of us as we implement our plan to make the campus a safer place for students faculty and staff."
Sixteen projects have been completed since 1989, including University Hall, Residence Hall Units 1, 2 and 3, University House, Wheeler Hall, California Hall, North Gate Hall and major portions of Doe Library.
For information on the SAFER report, see http://www.berkeley.edu/SAFER/ on the World Wide Web.