San Francisco Private School Earthquake Safety UpgradesMay 20 2014 · 0 comments · Educational, NISHKIAN MENNINGER, Seismic ·0
Currently, in the City and County of San Francisco, there are over 24,000 children attending private K-12 schools. These schools play a vital role in San Francisco communities and in the education of future generations. As such, the buildings that make up these schools play an important role in protecting students. Private schools in general are held to a lower building code standard than public schools. Plans for public school are required to be reviewed by the Division of State Architect and designed by a licensed structural engineer, while private schools are only designed by a licensed professional engineer. The inspection and material testing requirements are also much more lenient in private school building construction than in public schools. These requirements, coupled with an aging building population, can result in lower seismic safety of private school building.
The Private Schools Earthquake Safety Working Group started meeting in late 2012 to discuss and explore the current state of private school’s building seismic safety. The Working Group was made up of parents, school faculty, engineers, city officials, and concerned citizens who met for over a year to assess the best course of action in regards to the seismic safety of buildings. The Working Group’s recommendation to the City of San Francisco is to implement a mandatory seismic evaluation ordinance for all private schools within the City and County of San Francisco.
Upon passage by the Board of Supervisors of the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program, private schools will submit an Evaluation Scope to the Building Department with a proposed list of buildings to be evaluated. Private schools will have three years from passage date to submit a seismic evaluation of their school buildings to the City of San Francisco Building Department. Buildings that will require evaluations will be only those buildings that meet the building code definition of Educational Occupancy. All other non-educational buildings will be exempt; including churches, accessory residential buildings or other non-educational uses. Structures will be evaluated for their seismic safety by a licensed structural engineer based on the requirements put forth by the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program. The evaluation will be based on the ASCE 41-13 Seismic Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings code and will contain technical deficiencies listed, if any, and explanations of risks due to deficiencies.
Upon completion of the seismic evaluation, private schools will have the option of making any upgrades they choose based on their structural engineers’ recommendations. No penalties are associated with an evaluation noting deficiencies. Any upgrades can be tailored to each schools budget and schedule and are completely at the school’s discretion. The Building Department will not close or “red tag” a building based solely on the seismic evaluation results. The Building Department will only close a building or issue a “red tag” in the event that the building is about to fall down regardless of the seismic evaluation. The Building department has pledged to work with private Schools to ensure safety issues are met. Their dedication to case management will ensure that each school’s unique situation is handled according to budget and schedule.
The Earthquake Safety Implementation Program will be voted on by the Board of Supervisors in July of 2014 and could be implemented as soon as October of 2014. Nishkian Menninger is looking forward to providing evaluations for any of the private schools in San Francisco. We are committed to working with the owners to provide any rehabilitation that may be necessary to provide safe, earthquake resistant structures.
For more information on the design history of both private and public schools follow this link: Structural Engineering Design History
See the following link for more information regarding the Private Schools Earthquake Working Group: sfcapss website
The current Legislation’s Administrative Bulletins: The Private Schools Earthquake Evaluation Ordinance, AB-109 (Draft)
Images courtesy of the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program; Earthquake Risk and San Francisco’s Private Schools Report, December 31, 2013