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?
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, 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 storefronts, 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. During the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, many such buildings failed due to unreinforced openings on the ground floor that allowed more movement than a retrofitted building. Even though upper floors remained intact, they collapsed to the ground level as the first floor became seriously compromised.
Let’s walk through the steps for soft-story retrofitting here:
Consultation and Site Planning
Gozen Construction begins by evaluating your building and reviewing any compliance notices you have received. Our licensed structural engineer evaluates any structural issues of the building and proposes the best structural solutions to address the requirements. The plans are produced to show, in detail, all structural connections and supports that must be built to strengthen the building.
Permitting and Approvals
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.
Quote for the Cost of Construction
Once you have approved plans, 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.
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.
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.