Friday, April 18, 2014

LA To Create Nation's First Building Safety Rating System


Northridge Earthquake of 1994 Aftermath
Los Angeles, CA - Each year, southern California experiences about 10,000 earthquakes. Although many of them have negligible effect, anywhere between 15 to 20 have magnitude over 4.0. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is planning on creating the nation's first building safety rating system. This new system would rate the seismic safety of buildings and would prevent future damage in the event of larger earthquakes. Garcetti has brought on Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey to work with his administration in developing a rating system.

Mayor Garcetti says that the time to act is now. Taking note of the devastating effects after Hurricane Sandy and Katrina in the north and southeast, Garcetti says the cost of being unprepared is too high. "This past month, we've had two earthquakes, literal wake up calls to remind us that the big one is indeed coming," Garcetti pointed out, as the aftershock sequence will produce several earthquakes of all magnitudes for many months.

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 had a magnitude of 6.7 and killed 57 people, destroyed 7 freeway bridges, and led to over $20 billion worth of damage to buildings and other infrastructure. These earthquakes cause horrific damage, including the collapse of larger buildings, the breaking of water systems, and electrical fires. On the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, Garcetti stated in his State of the City Address:

"Today, I’m proud to announce that with Dr. Jones’ expertise, we are developing the first rating system in the United States to detail the earthquake safety of our buildings.

"But we won’t stop with that game-changer.  My charge to Dr. Jones is to help us create plans to mandate that our older buildings are retrofitted, and to protect our water and communications infrastructure."

LA's new seismic safety rating system is still in the works although advocates of building safety have been calling for such a system for many years as LA lies in a fault zone. The mayor and his council will be facing many issues in creating this new system, as there are many variables to take into account.

Michael Cochran, president of the Structural Engineers Association of California, pointed out that these same problems were faced by the U.S. Green Building Council with the LEED certification system for green buildings; however, LEED has gained nationwide success and continues to be the world's top green building rating system.