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6 UC Berkeley buildings found to be 'seismically deficient' after seismic evaluation

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AUGUST 29, 2019

In light of a recent assessment that found six campus buildings to be seismically deficient, Chancellor Carol Christ released a statement Wednesday addressing seismic safety on campus. 

Due to UC seismic safety policy revisions that were adopted in 2017, all buildings in the UC system must be assessed. Those deemed seismically deficient will be “retrofitted, replaced or vacated no later than the year 2030,” Christ said in the statement.

According to UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan, structural engineers have been reevaluating buildings for seismic safety on all 10 UC campuses using advanced technology in geotechnical engineering and seismology. The Hayward Fault, which runs through the eastern part of campus, makes seismic activity a particular concern for the campus community.

“I think students should be concerned about the seismic safety of the campus,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar in an email. “Student leaders, campus leaders, and elected officials in Sacramento are aware that UC Berkeley has major seismic needs and are working together to resolve them and make sure students, staff, and faculty are safe.”

Buildings are ranked on a scale of one to seven based on their “implied risk to life” and “implied seismic damageability” of structures, according to the UC seismic safety policy. A one on the scale is of negligible concern, while a seven is considered dangerous.    

Of the 600 buildings on campus, 114 have been assessed. Sixty-two buildings have been labeled as seismically deficient. Six of these buildings — Donner Lab Addition, Durant Hall, Evans Hall, Moffitt Undergraduate Library, Stephens Hall and Wellman Hall — were given the second-to-worst rating, indicating that they also pose a “severe” risk, according to the UC seismic safety policy.

So far, none of the buildings on campus have been given a seven, or a “dangerous” rating. 

Christ added that a building’s “rating can be the result of seismic deficiency” in one part of the building and not the whole structure. 

Campus freshman Karida Ean expressed some trepidation about the seismic safety of buildings on campus.

“I feel like Berkeley should let the students know and take action to reassure us and to improve the buildings,” Ean said. 

So far, UC Berkeley has spent over $1 billion to address seismic deficiencies. There are still 505 structures left to assess, many of which are located far from the core campus.

Currently, evaluations have begun on multiple locations on campus, including 2223 Fulton St. and Tolman Hall, both of which have been demolished. However, Tolman Hall will be rebuilt in the coming years. 

Looking forward, Giannini Hall — currently vacant — is being seismically retrofitted and is projected to be fully usable by the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year. Work on the Woo Hon Fai Hall, which used to house the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, is set to be completed by mid-2021, Christ said in the statement. 

“The leadership at each campus ultimately will make decisions about prioritization and best use of capital resources through its capital planning process,” Doan said in an email. 

She added that seismic projects will be incorporated into the UC’s capital financial plan, which already includes over $2 billion for seismic issues. 

Additionally, the UC, California State University system and the California State Legislature have been collaborating on a general obligation bond, which will help to finance some seismic retrofit projects, according to Doan. 

She added that the bond would “provide funds for seismic retrofit projects, if approved by California residents.” 

Since 1975, UC Berkeley has taken a proactive approach to ensure seismic safety, Christ said in the statement. At the time of their construction, all campus buildings met the code requirements.

After this point, there have been 37 major earthquakes in California registering 5.1 or higher on the Richter scale without “a single injury or fatality on any of the UC campuses,” according to Christ’s statement. 

In the 1990s, 18 campus buildings were retrofitted for seismic safety, costing approximately $250,000 million. Later that decade, the campus launched the Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement as a more “comprehensive seismic safety program,” according to Christ’s statement. 

“The critical upgrades during the next decade will take UC structures beyond what is currently required by state and local building authorities,” Doan said in an email. “UC’s independent Seismic Advisory Board, experts and engineers will continue to guide this important work.” 

Marlena Tavernier-Fine is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarlenaTF_DC.

AUGUST 30, 2019

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