A soft-story building is a multi-story structure built with a first floor that is less rigid than the floors above. In Los Angeles, for example, a typical soft-story building is an apartment building of three or more stories located over a ground level that has openings for tuck-under parking garages, commercial store fronts, or any other large openings. These openings mean that inherently, the floors above are not fully supported and are more susceptible to instability during an earthquake.

With soft-story buildings without retrofitting, significant structural failures can occur during a seismic event. For example, during the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, many such buildings failed due to unreinforced openings on the ground floor that allowed more movement than the soft story building could withstand. Even though upper floors remained intact, they collapsed to the ground level as the first floor became seriously compromised.

Seismic Retrofitting Laws

The City of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and others nearby, developed and implemented similar soft-story retrofit programs that are mandated by law to help prevent this structural failure from occurring in the future. In short, within these cities, soft-story retrofitting is no longer optional. Property owners must put a plan in place and comply with the ordinances by certain deadlines.

Under Ordinance 183893 and 184081, the Los Angeles City Soft-Story retrofit program details which structures are affected. Soft story structures designed and approved prior to 1978 are considered weak by current engineering standards and must be retrofitted within a specified time. Notices may be sent to property owners, but even if no notice is received, building owners must comply with the law.

What is a Soft-Story Retrofitting, exactly?

Soft-story retrofitting refers to the process of reinforcing the structurally weakest parts of the building to be able to resist seismic movements during an earthquake. Required precautions are taken to lower the likelihood that the building will collapse when an earthquake occurs. In many cases, structural steel members and connectors are used to strengthen the structural integrity of the building. In addition to adding these supports and reinforcements, there is typically some demolition and rebuilding of the building’s façade to conceal the newly added structural member.

Just how does the process work?

We can work with you every step of the way, from start to finish. A careful evaluation is the first step, followed by having a structural engineer prepare a plan. In fact, an important part of the compliance process is presenting a plan. There are several steps along the way, leading to the final step, the actual construction.

Let’s walk through the steps for soft-story retrofitting here:

Step 1: Consultation and Site Planning

Gozen Construction begins by evaluating your building and reviewing any compliance notices you have received. Site plans are produced to scale that meet Type V classification. The plan must include all buildings on the property and property line boundaries. Then, a licensed structural engineer evaluates the structural weaknesses of the building and uses this site plan to diagram a structural solution to those weaknesses. The plan must show, in detail, all structural connections and supports that must be built to strengthen the building.

Step 2 – Plan Approval

Next, the soft-story retrofit plan must be presented to the appropriate building code officials. This is a very important step towards compliance with all seismic code regulations and must not be overlooked. City planners and engineers review the plan and respond with guidance about the notes and data that must be included with the plan so that it can be approved.

Step 3: Get A Quote for the Cost of Construction

Once you have a plan that is approved, complete and detailed, it is time to get a quote for the cost of construction to execute the plan. Although you may have received an estimate earlier, now that the plan is finalized, you can expect a precise quote that details the cost of construction. At Gozen Construction we work with you very carefully on this process, so that the price we quote is the price you pay in total.

Call us today to learn more about our services or click here to request an estimate.

Step 4: Plan for Construction

Once you have a plan and a quote, it is time to begin planning for the actual construction. Gozen Construction can help you set dates and a timeline with a construction schedule so that you and your tenants know what to expect. You are required to give notice to tenants because they will be affected by the construction. There may be plumbing and electrical infrastructure that must be temporarily disconnected or relocated to accommodate the construction work. Gozen Construction can manage this part of the process for you.

Step 5: Execute and Complete Construction

Construction involves noise, as well as dust and debris. It is very disruptive to your tenants and may even mean that they need to temporarily relocate. However, they will appreciate knowing that the building meets soft-story seismic ordinances. Gozen Construction works with you to plan this phase carefully, so that the schedule is clear, everyone can plan accordingly, and the work is accomplished as quickly as possible.

Why do so many propery owners choose Gozen Construction for soft-story retrofitting?

We are a California Licensed General Building and Engineering Contractor who can help you with all seismic retrofitting needs. We work with you closely and make sure you understand the project from the beginning. We can provide required design and engineering services as well as construction activities. We bring customized solutions to all construction needs. We are reliable, on time and on budget.

Our turn-key project service ensures that all required paperwork and permits are filled out by our team, so you have nothing to worry about. When the seismic retrofit construction is completed, your building will comply to seismic ordinances and will be ready for the next earthquake in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

Throughout the Los Angeles area, there are numerous low-rise concrete buildings that were constructed prior to today’s current building code standards, earthquake safety engineering and construction methods. Newer structures are designed and built to flex and stretch, making them resilient during an earthquake. Older structures can be brittle and therefor more susceptible to earthquake damage.

In 2015, the city of Los Angeles passed an ordinance mandating the reinforcement of older concrete buildings constructed prior to 1977. The cost of non-compliance may be significant. Obviously, there is the risk of severe damage or loss. Because non-compliant structures may cause damages or injury to others, building owners are vulnerable to legal and financial liability too. Additionally, they may be faced with a less marketable property and higher insurance costs.

What is a Non-Ductile Retrofit, exactly?

To reduce the risk of damage or structural failure during a seismic event, there are a number of options for non-ductile, brittle concrete structures. Gozen Construction is experienced and can make the best recommendations for your property.

We may suggest one or a combination of the following:

  • Stiffen existing elements with jacketing
  • Reinforce columns with column wrapping
  • Add braces
  • Construct additional sheer walls
  • Add base isolators

Just how does the process work?

Even though you may have some time to comply, it is better to begin sooner to protect your property. You never know when the next major earthquake will occur.

We can work with you every step of the way, from start to finish. A careful building evaluation is the first step. This is followed with the development of a plan from a structural engineer on our team. In fact, an important part of the compliance process is presenting a plan. There are several steps along the way, leading to the final step, the actual construction.

Call us today to learn more about our services or click here to request an estimate.

Let’s see how your non-ductile retrofit can work, from start to finish:

Step 1: Evaluation and Engineering Plan

Gozen Construction provides a licensed structural engineer to evaluate the structural weaknesses of the building and to develop a plan to mitigate those weaknesses. The plan must show in detail all items that must be built or added to strengthen the building.

Step 2 – Plan Approval

Next the plan must be presented to the appropriate building code officials. This is an important step in the non-ductile retrofit process and must not be overlooked. City planners and engineers review the plan and respond with guidance about the notes and data that must be included with the plan so that it can be approved.

Step 3: Get a quote for the cost of construction.

Once you have plan that is approved, complete and detailed, it is time to get a quote for the cost of construction to execute the plan. Although you may have received an estimate earlier, now that the plan is finalized, you can expect a precise quote that details the cost of construction. At Gozen Construction we work with you very carefully on this process, so that the price we quote is the price you pay in total.

Step 4: Plan for construction.

Once you have a plan and a quote, it is time to begin planning for the actual construction. Gozen Construction can help you set dates and a timeline so that you and others who occupy or use the building know what to expect. You should give notice to anyone who will be affected by the construction. There may be plumbing and electrical infrastructure that must be temporarily disconnected or relocated to accommodate the construction work. Gozen construction can manage this part of the process for you.

Step 5: Execute and complete construction.

Construction involves noise, as well as dust and debris. It is very disruptive to your tenants and may even mean that they need to temporarily relocate. Gozen Construction works with you to plan this phase carefully, so that the schedule is clear, everyone can plan accordingly, and the work is accomplished as quickly as possible, bringing your building in line with current non-ductile retrofit ordinances.

Why do so many propery owners choose Gozen Construction for non-ductile concrete seismic retrofitting?

We are a California Licensed General Building and Engineering Contractor that can help you with all seismic retrofitting needs. We work with you closely and make sure you understand the project from the beginning. We can provide required design and engineering services as well as construction activities. We bring customized solutions to all construction needs. We are reliable, on time and on budget.

Our turn-key project service ensures that all required paperwork and permits are filled out by our team, so you have nothing to worry about. When the seismic retrofit construction is completed, your building will comply to seismic ordinances and will be ready for the next earthquake in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.