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DESIGNING FOR DISASTER: The UC Berkeley Seismic Retrofit Program

Mary Comerio

The staggering economic losses that accompanied physical damage in the Northridge, Los Angeles, and Kobe, Japan earthquakes prompted earthquake engineering researchers to re-think the way buildings, bridges, and other structures were designed. Researchers together with design practitioners proposed a model where safety and operability were explicit in "performance-based earthquake engineering (PBEE)." The analytic methods are designed to enumerate casualties, damage, and downtime so that the practitioner can engage in a dialogue with the client on what to expect from different designs. With the performance model, engineers and architects quantify the technical needs and costs associated with expected outcomes. The client then makes a conscious choice among building systems, balancing front end costs with long term performance.

This approach is exemplified at the University of California, Berkeley, a world-class institution sitting astride the Hayward fault-a fault which seismologists estimate will rupture sometime in the next fifty years. In the past decade, UC Berkeley has taken that prediction seriously, and invested in the single largest program of seismic improvement of existing buildings in the world. The investment was justified by the need to protect the safety of students, faculty, and staff, and the preservation of research and the stature of the university. This talk will describe the impetus for and the implementation of the Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal (SAFER) program and the Disaster Resistant University (DRU) Initiative. Together, the investment in building strengthening, the development of new high-performance buildings, and the risk-management planning have made the UC Berkeley campus a safer and more resilient institution.

The lecture will be illustrated with slides and is intended for the general audience.

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Last modified: Wed Sep 14 14:39:24 PDT 2005