UC Berkeley press release

NEWS RELEASE, 10/24/97

Chancellor Robert Berdahl announces ambitious plan to improve seismic safety on UC Berkeley campus

by Robert Sanders


BERKELEY--UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl announced today (10/24/97) a 10-point action plan to improve seismic safety on campus. The long-term, ambitious plan calls for an immediate high-level administrative restructuring, the securing of upwards of $700 million from public and private sources, and a coordinated planning and development effort to guide extensive retrofitting and new construction.

The plan, called the SAFER (Seismic Action plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal) Program, has been developed in response to a newly completed review of campus seismic safety performance that provides the campus with the most up-to-date, comprehensive structural assessment of its buildings ever.

"We are no less safe today than we were yesterday, but our understanding of the magnitude of the problem has changed. We have to assume responsibility now, despite the enormous cost, and work to make this campus as safe an environment as possible," Berdahl said.

Berdahl said the campus's first priority has always been the protection of the life and safety of students, faculty and staff. In addition, he said, the new review provides a clearer understanding of what it will take to ensure the sustained operation of the campus following a major earthquake.

"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. "If UC Berkeley were put out of business by an earthquake, recovery for the state and the region would be greatly hindered, and the impact locally and nationally would be felt for years afterward."

The Berkeley campus is the oldest in the nine-campus University of California system. The Hayward Fault, considered the most active in the Bay Area, runs under the eastern edge of the campus. In the 1970s a seismic study pointed to the need for corrective action in some campus facilities. Since then, the campus has funded approximately $250 million in seismic improvements -- including upgrading and strengthening of all high-rise residence halls.

With new information on seismicity and building behavior available following recent major quakes in urban areas, including the Loma Prieta quake in the Bay Area in 1989, experts hired by the campus evaluated the probable performance of campus structures in a major earthquake on the Hayward Fault. They found that approximately 27 percent of the main campus's total usable space (excluding buildings where remodeling and upgrading already were planned) rates poor or very poor. Corrective work is estimated at about $700 million in current dollars.

To direct the long-term effort, Berdahl plans to restructure his administration to appoint a new vice chancellor for capital projects who will coordinate all aspects of the SAFER Program as well as oversee on-going capital improvements and a multimillion dollar backlog of deferred maintenance. He has named Nicholas Jewell to be the interim vice chancellor until a national search can be completed. Jewell is currently the vice provost for academic affairs and a professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health.

"The new assessment provides the campus with an exceptional framework from which to develop a strategic plan to deliver the most responsible, effective and cost-efficient solution," said Jewell.

"This historic project is a challenge to the campus, but it's also an opportunity," Jewell said. "It allows us to think about planning on the campus in a comprehensive way. We can take steps through this program to ensure safety and to mitigate the effects of a possible earthquake. It is imperative that our buildings continue to operate after a quake so that the campus can remain open and functioning and be a resource for the community as well."

Developing funding sources will be a major task, said Jewell. "The campus is putting up some of its own money, and hopes to raise private as well as government funds. We hope that state and federal government agencies will work together to help us raise the remainder needed to complete the project."

The seismic review was conducted by three of California's most experienced structural engineering firms, all with offices in San Francisco: Degenkolb Engineers; Rutherford & Chekene, Consulting Engineers; and Forell/Elsesser Engineers. The $250,000 study, titled "The 1997 Preliminary Seismic Evaluation, Phase 1 Report," involved a detailed look at more than 100 buildings and peer-reviewed ratings of each.

The engineering firms concluded that 73 percent of the usable space on the central campus rated fair or good -- meaning that a building would survive a major earthquake with some structural damage or falling hazards, but would not represent a significant hazard to life. However, nearly 27 percent, or about 2 million square feet, was rated poor or very poor.

Buildings rated very poor would be expected to sustain extensive structural and non-structural damage in a major seismic disturbance, with the potential for structural collapse and/or falling hazards that would represent "high life hazards."

A poor rating means that a building would be expected to sustain significant structural and non-structural damage and/or result in falling hazards in a major seismic disturbance, representing "appreciable life hazards."

In response to the new seismic report, the chancellor has committed $1 million to immediately intensify campus seismic safety planning. The 10-point SAFER Program provides a comprehensive approach to seismic safety on the UC Berkeley campus into the next century.

In addition to the appointment of a vice chancellor for capital projects to focus on the issue, the plan also calls for:

  • Formation of an Executive Campus Planning Committee chaired by the chancellor. It will be responsible for all physical planning decisions on campus.
  • Establishment of smaller planning committees to assess in more detail seismic needs in specific areas of the campus, along with campuswide functional assessment committees.
  • Determining the need for full or partial closures of facilities posing an unacceptable risk for continued use.
  • Creation of a master plan for renewal.
  • The overhaul and streamlining of capital project management to increase efficiency and cost effectiveness.
  • Developing plans for obtaining temporary space, sites and buildings.
  • Initiation of a multiple source financing plan.
  • Ensuring comprehensive emergency preparedness and providing training.
  • Development of a comprehensive campus and community communications plan.

The study, conducted over the summer, concluded that 50 campus buildings should be rated poor. In addition, the campus already was aware of seven buildings rated very poor. The cost to retrofit the 57 buildings is estimated at about $700 million in current dollars. The Hearst Memorial Mining Building and the Dance Facility (2401 Bancroft Way), which are also rated very poor but have been funded for construction starting next year, were not included in these figures.

The other campus buildings currently rated very poor are the Hearst Greek Theatre, built in 1903; a small, mostly vacated brick building that housed the original University Art Gallery, and which the music department hopes to renovate as a performance hall; the College of Chemistry's Hildebrand Hall; the UC Berkeley Art Museum; Wurster Hall, home of the College of Environmental Design; a university garage on Oxford Street; and a now empty duplex in the Smyth/Fernwald housing complex (2925 Dwight Way).

These buildings would be given a very high priority to improve their seismic resistance, Jewell said, with the goal of bringing the buildings' ratings up to good. Alternatively, some of the buildings might be considered for other abatement programs, such as reduction of occupancy or removal.

Jewell noted that the Phase 1 Report involved buildings on or near the main UC Berkeley campus. Off-campus buildings at the Richmond Field Station, the Clark Kerr Campus, the family housing complex at Albany Village, and elsewhere are to be reassessed in a Phase 2 Report due later in the fall. The current report also does not consider buildings already under construction, such as the main library and the Haas Pavilion.

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