Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the UC Berkeley Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal, the SAFER Program.

Q: What's behind the campus's new seismic review and all the attention it's getting?

A: The review was undertaken and the action plan developed with one goal: to do all we can to improve the safety of the campus in the event of a major earthquake on the nearby Hayward Fault. Our number one priority is the protection of the life and safety of students, faculty and staff. We also want to ensure the sustained operation of the campus. As one of the region's largest job centers and one of the nation's most important educational and research centers, it is very important this campus continue to operate should a major quake strike. Further, a functioning campus will be able to provide the local community emergency services following a major earthquake.

Q: What do the building ratings -- good, fair, poor and very poor -- really mean?

A: The ratings follow established UC standards for seismic rehabilitation projects, for new construction and for hospital construction. A detailed explanation of each of the four rating categories appears in the Oct. 22-28 special issue of the Berkeleyan; in the SAFER program report and on this web site.

Q: Are the buildings rated poor or very poor unsafe to be in?

A: None of the buildings are any less safe than they have been. Even before this new, more comprehensive study, we had buildings on campus rated poor or very poor that people continue to work in. The situation hasn't changed for any of our buildings, but we now know more about those in need of repair work.

All structures in an area subject to earthquakes pose some risk and uncertainty. It is estimated that more than 30 percent of all large state-owned buildings fall in the poor to very poor category. The new structural review of campus buildings provides us with an exceptional tool to focus our efforts so that we can move ahead to correct deficiencies in the most effective way.

Q: Who will determine what work is to be done?

A: These decisions will be made at the highest level. The 10-point SAFER Program calls for a new Executive Campus Planning Committee chaired by Chancellor Berdahl to be responsible for these and other major physical planning decisions on campus.

The committee will use information supplied by technical experts, engineers and safety planners. Among the information that will guide decisions will be:

  • The nature of the structural risk for each building. These are technical determinations that are still to be made.

  • The level of activity in a building. This means the number of people who use the building combined with the hours of use, and the kinds of activities that go on in it.

  • What the best solution is. Is it best to repair or replace a building? The practical considerations include whether work can go on in some areas while retrofitting is under way, or whether everyone must be moved and if so, what relocation space is needed and for how long.

All of these decisions will be part of the comprehensive master plan to be developed to direct all seismic retrofitting and capital improvements on campus.

Q: When will work be done?

A: Work is already being done. Since the original seismic study, 18 buildings have been retrofitted or work is well under way at a cost of approximately $250 million. These include all the high-rise residence halls, large academic facilities such as Wheeler Hall, administrative buildings such as University Hall, and many more buildings. Work continues on the main library and the Haas Pavilion, among others.

The timing of work resulting from the new seismic review will be guided by the master plan to be developed.

Q: You talk about a 20-year or longer time frame. Why so long?

A: The 20-year time frame is based on our current rough estimates of potential funding. As we talk with state and federal officials we will be better able to develop a sense of the likely time frame. We are hopeful we will be able to accelerate the program.

It is important to note that while the work will take place over a long period, we will move ahead immediately on buildings judged to have the highest risk.

For example the three large buildings that are rated very poor, Wurster and Hildebrand halls and the UC Berkeley Art Museum, will get attention first. Already, the chancellor has authorized $750,000 to prepare plans for seismic repair at Wurster so that the campus can be in line to secure state capital improvement funds in next year's budget.

Q: In the meantime, will we be moved to different buildings?

A: Among our first steps will be to assess each building in greater detail. In cases of particularly high risk, special measures will be taken.

An example is what occurred with the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, which was rated very poor. As we developed a plan to fund repairs we started by moving the most intensive activities out of the building. We first closed a classroom. Later, when other space became available, we relocated offices. Now, with construction funding secured, we will relocate the remaining laboratories and begin corrective work.

Q: I am uncomfortable working in my building. Do I have to continue to work there?

A: It is anticipated that most buildings will remain accessible during seismic safety renovations. Clearly, we can't vacate every building where there is some degree of risk. Departments will be open for business as usual and employees are expected to come to work.

It is natural for all of us to have some concern when we hear that our workplace needs to be made "more safe." It is, in fact, our commitment to workplace safety that compels us to move forward with this program. We are also committed to ensuring that each individual's concerns are addressed in sensitive, timely and effective manner. Employees are encouraged to share their concerns with their supervisors, or through established department channels for dealing with health and safety matters.

Q: Does the campus offer services to help us manage the anxiety some of us may feel?

A: It is natural for people to feel uneasy and uncomfortable, particularly at first. This is especially true for people who have experienced significant trauma or loss in past earthquakes or other natural disasters. Such discomfort usually recedes with time, but should it persist, CARE Services for Faculty and Staff is available to assist.

Located in the Tang Center at 2222 Bancroft Way, CARE Services offers confidential consultation and short-term counseling services to all faculty, staff and their family members. Services are provided by licensed counselors and are free of charge. For further information or to make a appointment, call 643-7754. The Care Services' web site,, provides additional information.

Q: Is there anything I can do, or my office can do, to make our workplace safer before major structural work is done?

A: The campus's Office of Emergency Preparedness offers training and safety information. It can be reached at 642-9036. Its web site,, provides information on how to prepare for an emergency and additional information on services offered.

Q: Why does the campus suddenly have all these new problems? I thought the seismic work was done.

A: It's not that we suddenly have new problems. But, we now know much more. A survey of structures this summer by three leading California engineering companies provided us with a great deal of new information. In the aftermath of earthquakes in Northridge and Kobe, Japan, new knowledge has been gained in seismology, geotechnical engineering and in the behavior of various building construction types. Among the new understandings we have is information on what happens to structures very close to a fault, as we are to the Hayward Fault.

In fact, the campus is making great progress in meeting the original seismic safety policy set out by the Board of Regents. It called for all necessary seismic repairs to be completed or in the design phase by the year 2000. Systemwide, of the 225 structures originally identified since the inception of the seismic safety effort, 133 have been demolished or repaired.

Q: Will other UC campuses be reevaluating their buildings?

A: UCLA already has a review underway and recently President Richard Atkinson directed chancellors at all the campuses to initiate new campus building surveys to take into account the new information available.

Q: How successful has the retrofitting here been and how did our newest buildings do in the recent review?

A: The seismic review found that our retrofitting efforts have been very successful in meeting building performance standards for the protection of life safety. Further our newest buildings, such as Soda and Tan halls, were rated good in the latest review.

Q: If we want more information, where can we get it?

A: The Oct. 22-28 issue of the Berkeleyan has a special two-page section that provides a summary of findings, lists building ratings and outlines the campus's 10-point action plan, called the SAFER Program. In addition, the full 22-page report, with lists and maps, is available at this web site. In the weeks to come, campus representatives will meet with faculty, staff and students to answer questions. In November, Chancellor Berdahl will host a campuswide town hall meeting.

Plan of Action
April 24, 1998

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