Los Angeles Earthquake Report: Be Afraid

West
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
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Hospital in Sylmar destroyed by the San Fernando Earthquake.  (US Geological Survey)

Hospital in Sylmar destroyed by the San Fernando Earthquake. (US Geological Survey)

If you live or work in one of LA’s many older concrete buildings and happened to read the  Los Angeles Times recent story, “Concrete Risks,” your building, as swanky and detailed as it may be, may never be experienced in quite the same light. The report sounds the alarm on over 1,000 concrete buildings in the city and throughout the region that “may be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake.”

Aftermath of the Long Beach Earthquake. (Southern California Earthquake Center)

Aftermath of the Long Beach Earthquake. (Southern California Earthquake Center)

As the reporters note, starting in the 1920’s, the skyline of Los Angeles began to be defined by concrete buildings. “By the 1970s, canyons of concrete towers lined some of LA’s most famous streets.” Even buildings like the iconic Capitol Records tower could be at risk and urgently in need of seismic retrofitting. Other buildings range from seamstress factories downtown to condo towers along “Millionaires’ Mile” in Westwood.

“Los Angeles officials have known about the dangers for more than 40 years but have failed to force owners to make their properties safer. The city has even rejected calls to make a list of concrete buildings,” the report asserts. City codes didn’t require more rebar until 1976.

The future of such buildings in the city remains unclear. What is clear is that there are many at-risk buildings in need of seismic assessments and retrofits. A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, with backing from the National Science Foundation, has come up with a list. Because of liability issues this list was not made available, but the team did provide their conclusions.  Such a list would help the city start addressing this problem, but it would take lot of political will, not to mention risk, for city leaders to take up the cause. According to the article, newly-elected mayor Eric Garcetti says he is interested in reviewing the issue.

Infrastructure is also at risk, as this image of the Northridge Earthquake shows.  (U.S. Geological Survey)

Infrastructure is also at risk, as this image of the Northridge Earthquake shows. (U.S. Geological Survey)

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