Viewed from inside newly reinforced Hildebrand Hall, more than 100 people attend a June 13 ceremony celebrating the completion of seismic retrofitting on the College of Chemistry building. Noah Berger photo

Retrofits applauded

10 July 2002 | It’s back to business as usual for four of the campus’s busiest buildings, which have been spruced up and seismically strengthened to improve life safety in the event of a major earthquake. The upgrades are the result of nearly two years of campus construction.

The foursome — Hildebrand and Latimer Halls, housing part of the College of Chemistry; the Samuel L. Silver Space Sciences Laboratory; and Barrows Hall, a busy hub of classrooms and offices in the social sciences — are part of an ongoing program of seismic upgrades designed to make the campus safer and allow it to return to regular operation more quickly in the event of an earthquake.

Known as the SAFER program, or “Seismic Action Plan for Facil-ities Renewal,” the plan was developed in 1997, identifying buildings across campus that would require some degree of seismic retrofit over the next 20 years.

“The completion of these four projects is a very important milestone for the campus,” said Chancellor Robert Berdahl at a June celebration marking the completion of the retrofits. “Our concern, first and foremost, was about the safety of people who work and study in these buildings, but also, after an earthquake, to be able to resume the work that goes on in them.”

He praised Capital Projects and all involved in the effort for completing all four buildings on time and within budget. “Thanks to your work,” he told those gathered, “we have safer buildings, buildings that should be able to sustain whatever nature has to throw at us.”

And the chancellor acknowledged how difficult it has been for the staff and faculty who worked through the retrofit in Barrows Hall. “To you we have nothing but apologies for the disruption,” he said.

Edward Denton, vice chancellor for Capital Projects, also spoke at the celebration, commending the engineering, design and architecture teams for their work.

The four buildings, each built in the mid-1960s, presented four distinct seismic challenges to engineers, and each was met with innovative retrofits. Improvements to the buildings included the following:

Shear walls were added to the exterior of Hildebrand Hall, as well as structural improvements such as braces that were developed in the aftermath of the Kobe, Japan earthquake, to direct earthquake forces from ground motion to the roof. Interior work included bracing lab furniture and equipment and adding lips to shelves to prevent stored objects from falling in a quake. The building is home to chemistry labs, classrooms and the chemistry library. It was rated “very poor” in the campus’s most recent seismic assessment.

Latimer Hall now has a new exoskeleton of concrete and updated interior equipment and furniture, much like Hildebrand Hall. The building houses chemistry labs and classrooms and had been rated “poor.” The exterior retrofit plan was developed in part so that the building could remain operational during construction.

The Samuel L. Silver Space Sciences Laboratory, a three-story building with a basement, houses Berkeley’s space sciences program, labs for many NASA-funded projects, and serves as headquarters for several satellite control centers. The building was rated “poor” and had deficiencies such as discontinuous shear walls and weak columns. The building was upgraded by adding three buttresses, on the east, north and south sides of the building, and repairing the interior columns by wrapping them in fiber. The buttresses anchor the building to the hillside with 85-foot-deep footings.

The eight-story Barrows Hall, rated “poor” in the SAFER report, houses approximately 400 staff, faculty and students who work mainly in the social sciences. It is one of the busiest buildings on campus. New reinforced concrete walls and foundations wrapping each end were built to bolster the building. The walls were then anchored to the existing structure and tied to one another with collector beams, which extend along the north and south faces of Barrows Hall at the upper four floors.

For added safety, the buildings received upgrades to fire alarm and sprinkler systems. Also, accessibility issues were addressed, improving the buildings’ compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 1998, as part of its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the Berkeley campus $42 million in grants for the four retrofits; the state and campus added an additional $49 million to begin the aggressive program of seismic upgrading.


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