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Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Campus earns seismic safety honor

– The model Disaster Resistant University Program at the University of California, Berkeley, has been recognized as one of the top seismic safety projects of the 20th century by an engineering group that strives to mitigate disaster-caused damage to the built environment.

Edward J. Denton, vice chancellor of facilities services at UC Berkeley, accepted the award on behalf of the campus at an awards dinner Monday night (April 17) in San Francisco that was sponsored by the Applied Technology Council. The honor was given just hours before the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and firestorm.

"I am very pleased with the remarkable progress we have made and been able to sustain in dramatically improving the seismic safety of the UC Berkeley campus," Denton said. "Our accomplishments reduced by half the life safety risks for about 40,000 students, faculty and staff, and have cut the risks of potential earthquake-caused economic losses by 25 percent."

The program, which made UC Berkeley the first Disaster Resistant University in the United States, was launched in 1998, about the same time the campus received a $42 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for seismic retrofitting.

Since then, UC Berkeley has tapped multiple funding sources to complete or initiate approximately $500 million worth of seismic and related improvements in buildings across campus. Some of the buildings retrofitted include Wurster, Barrows, Barker, Latimer, Hildebrand and LeConte halls, as well as Haas Pavilion, Doe Library, Silver Lab at the Space Sciences Laboratory, the Archaeological Research Facility, and Berkeley Art Museum.

All occupied buildings on the central campus with a "very poor" seismic rating have been retrofitted. Work also has been completed or initiated on 77 percent of the square footage identified in 1997 in UC Berkeley's Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal (SAFER) as needing seismic improvement.

Remaining seismic work is needed for buildings including Evans and Tolman halls and smaller, unoccupied facilities such as the Old Art Gallery and backstage at the Greek Theatre.

Results from seismic research conducted by UC Berkeley faculty at the Underhill parking garage were incorporated into specific, near-a-fault engineering data for the construction of new residence halls on either side of the garage.

In addition, retrofit methods pioneered at UC Berkeley -- such as base isolation -- and a Q-Brace program that provides matching funds for non-structural bracing, are now standard components of the campus disaster-resistance effort.

That effort also has produced additional disaster recovery and business resumption plans for UC Berkeley, along with a study assessing the local and regional economic impacts resulting from an earthquake measuring 7.25 on the Hayward Fault, which runs under or near several campus buildings.

Led by UC Berkeley professors Mary Comerio, John Quigley and Vitelmo Bertero, a team of researchers concluded in 2000 that such a quake would force UC Berkeley to close for up to a year and would cause the regional loss of almost 9,000 jobs, $680 million in personal income and another $861 million in sales in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties combined.

UC Berkeley's Disaster Resistant University program and SAFER were also saluted with the 2005 Alquist Certificate from the California Earthquake Safety Foundation, which recognized UC Berkeley's leadership in demonstrating state-of-the-art risk management for universities across the country.

The Applied Technology Council is a nonprofit corporation based in Redwood City, Calif., founded in 1973 through the efforts of the Structural Engineers Association of California. Its mission is to develop and promote engineering to mitigate the impacts of natural and other hazards on the built environment.

Other honorees included the Cathedral of Our Lady in Los Angeles, a seismic design and retrofit for Golden Gate Bridge, the seismic retrofit of San Francisco City Hall, and a trans-Alaskan pipeline project.

For more on FEMA's Disaster Resistant University, go to: http://www.fema.gov/institution/dru.shtm. There are now about 25 disaster-resistant universities, including Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of Miami, and University of Alaska, Fairbanks.