You make our earth quake: The Clog’s guide to seismic retrofitting

Illustration of Oski falling down a crevice in the ground
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Recently, UC Berkeley started a seismic assessment because of UC seismic safety policy revisions. So far, 114 campus buildings have been assessed, and 62 of these buildings earned the status of seismically deficient. Among these 62 buildings, six in particular — Evans Hall, Moffitt Library, Stephens Hall, Wellman Hall, Durant Hall and the Donner Lab Addition —pose a severe risk and must be retrofitted, replaced or vacated by 2030. Frankly, we’ve never even heard of half of these buildings, so they probably wouldn’t be missed if they were shaken to rubble or swallowed by the Earth — except for the Chinese lion statues outside of Durant Hall, which are awesome and Clog-endorsed.

Now, we’re going to ignore that the majority of the buildings assessed so far have been deemed seismically deficient — an insignificant detail, really — to focus on what “seismic retrofit” means, as it seems that quite a few buildings will have to undergo the process. We could tell you all about seismic retrofitting and use geological jargon, but if we’re being honest, we don’t know all that much about it. Let’s just say the buildings need to become more stable to be earthquake-proof, because our campus is built on the Hayward Fault. The TL;DR is that if there’s an earthquake, especially “the big one,” we’re all screwed. 

The buildings will most likely be closed to the public because of the work that needs to be done to their foundations and structures, meaning you’ll have to find a new library to not study in instead of Moffitt or a place to run your lab experiments instead of Donner. The buildings will undergo construction, using techniques such as external post tensioning, ad hoc addition of structural support, possibly the addition of a slosh tank, blah blah blah and more stability related stuff. By the end, the buildings will be earthquake-safe. Quite frankly, we wish we could give you more information, but we’re unsure of how to simplify this information or what a slosh tank even is, as we’re not a construction company.

We’re sure many questions have arisen during the seismic evaluation of our campus. Are these buildings safe to be in? Look, if there’s an earthquake and you’re in Moffitt, you won’t be crushed to death by musty old books — what a way to go out. Would it be the worst thing in the world if an earthquake took down Evans or the school replaced it? For the sake of this argument, let’s consider Evans is empty. It’s often thought of as one of the ugliest buildings on campus, since it’s really nothing more than a gray cube surrounded by charming classical buildings with character. And if UC Berkeley is willing to put forth the funding for “seismic retrofitting” (whatever that means), they may as well give Stephens Hall a fresh coat of paint, too.

What other buildings will be deemed seismically deficient? Who’s in charge of this? Will the other 56 buildings deemed seismically deficient also need to be retrofitted? Where is Wellman Hall? How can I get a 4.0, eight hours of sleep each night and maintain a social life? We don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but what we do know is that Evans Hall needs to be redone. For seismic safety, yes, but also for beauty. Please.

Contact Zachary Abuel-Saud at [email protected].