UC Berkeley News


Berkeley's seismic, disaster-resistant efforts honored

| 27 April 2006

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

Edward Denton, vice chancellor of facilities services, accepted the award on behalf of the campus at an awards dinner held April 17 in San Francisco. 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 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 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, 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, 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 Berkeley's Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal (SAFER) as needing seismic improvement.

Seismic work is still needed for many buildings and smaller, unoccupied facilities.

Results from seismic research conducted by 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 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 Berkeley, along with a study assessing the likely 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 Berkeley professors Mary Comerio, John Quigley, and Vitelmo Bertero, a team of researchers concluded in 2000 that such a quake would force the campus 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.