California Must Build to a Seismic Resilient Standard
- Emma Taylor
- (818) 376-4246
(Sacramento, CA) On a unanimous vote, the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development today approved Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian’s (D-Van Nuys) Assembly Bill 1997, allowing the state to consider whether it is time to address the performance objective of our current building code given California’s high seismic risk and lengthy wait time of the national code development process.
“By strengthening our building codes we are proactively preventing catastrophic property damage, economic disruption, and loss of homes,” stated Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “Our building code policy should reflect the evolutions in earthquake science and engineering practice.”
Unfortunately, the current building code standard results in safe, yet disposable property. Most new buildings designed under the current code will protect against loss of life, however, gives no assurance to when or if the buildings might be reoccupied, returned to service, or even repairable.
AB 1997 would require the California Building Standards Commission to assemble a working group comprised of various state entities and members of the building design, construction, management, and insurance industries. This group would investigate the merit of using a functional recovery standard for earthquake design of buildings.
Building to a functional recovery standard would mean a building’s structure, architecture, and systems would maintain their integrity or could be restored to support basic functions of the building’s pre-earthquake use within a maximum acceptable time.
Analyses of large earthquakes anticipated in Southern California and the Bay Area predict that a significant number of structures built to the current code will suffer enough damage to be flagged as dangerous by local building departments. Together with expected destruction to older buildings, this represents more than $100 billion in damage, displacement of people from their homes, and significant disruption to the regional economy.
“California building codes do a good job of protecting life but are not specifically focused on the cost and time to regain function of a building,” said Ryan Kersting of the Structural Engineers Association of California. “AB 1997 simply raises the question of whether we should be doing more to protect jobs, housing, and community services, by designing new buildings for re-occupancy and functional recovery timeframes, not just safety. It’s an urgent conversation, and most Californians would expect their leaders and communities to be having it.”
The legislation has also received support from the California Building Officials and the Personal Insurance Federation of California. The next step for AB 1997 is a hearing by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
In addition to AB 1997, Assemblymember Nazarian is also pushing for the following two seismic safety measures this legislative year:
- AB 429, which would require the Seismic Safety Commission to survey buildings in the most seismically vulnerable counties; and
- AB 2504, which would create incentives for property owners to retrofit their buildings with financial help from the California Capital Access Program (CalCAP) Seismic Safety Financing Program.
Adrin Nazarian represents the 46th Assembly District, serving the San Fernando Valley communities of Hollywood Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Universal City, Van Nuys, and Valley Village