Seismic Safety Initiative FAQ

What is happening?

At the direction of the UC Office of the President, a coordinated effort is underway at all ten University of California campuses to reassess the seismic rating of every building in response to the May 2017 update of the UC Seismic Policy. This comprehensive effort began in 2018 and is anticipated to be completed by summer 2020.

The updated seismic evaluations will enable each campus to identify structures that most urgently need attention and subsequently develop updated capital financial plans and timelines for retrofit or replacement projects.

What is the UC Seismic Safety Policy and how did it come about?

The first Seismic Safety Policy was approved by the Regents' Grounds and Buildings Committee and sent to campuses in January 1975.

The policy has undergone changes over the years in response to major earthquakes around the world and improvements in construction to prevent seismic damage. Following the issuance of the first policy, UC launched a preliminary survey of all campus buildings to determine how they would perform in case of an earthquake. Campuses began carrying out seismic retrofits in 1979.

In 2017, the University of California established the Seismic Advisory Board, implemented a seismic risk model in lieu of interim use plans, added prioritization guidelines, and made editorial revisions throughout the policy.

In the past 12 years, UC Santa Cruz has spent more than $450 million to address our buildings' seismic needs. Since 2007, the following buildings have been seismically upgraded:

  • The Cookhouse
  • Hahn Student Services
  • Stevenson Academic Building
  • Barn H
  • Porter College Residential Halls A & B
  • Porter College Dining Commons
  • Cowell College Dining Commons
  • Merrill College Dormitories A, B, C and D
  • Cowell Student Health Center
  • Stevenson Event Center
  • West Field House
  • Crown College Residential Halls
  • Cardiff House
  • Student Union/Redwood Building
  • Student Union

Does the UC Seismic Safety Policy apply to all university facilities (i.e., Scotts Valley Center, Silicon Valley Campus, Big Creek, etc.)?

The policy applies to any buildings and facilities in California that are owned or leased by the University of California. For UC Santa Cruz, this includes the residential campus, the Scotts Valley Center, the Coastal Science Campus, the Silicon Valley Campus, Monterey Bay Education Science and Technology (MBEST), and many other sites.

What does the UC Seismic Advisory Board do?

The Seismic Advisory Board (SAB) provides guidance to the university on seismic design, risk and rehabilitation associated with university facilities and leased facilities. The SAB’s responsibilities include assessing seismic risk, advising on seismic priorities, reviewing new building and rehabilitation plans, and providing policy revision recommendations.

What do the seismic ratings mean?

The University of California, in collaboration with the California Department of General Services and California State University, developed a system of seismic performance ratings based on the existing California building code. Buildings are assessed for earthquake resiliency and assigned a rating. The ratings levels are:

  • I – IV: Seismic Safety Policy Compliant
  • V: Will Require Further Evaluation and, if Confirmed, Must be Addressed in Order of Priority
  • VI: High-Priority for Correction
  • VII: Must be Unoccupied and Access-Restricted

Where will the funding for seismic renovations come from?

A total cost for seismic improvements will be calculated once the seismic review is completed. The University of California will work with UC Regents, state leaders and California voters to develop financial strategies to advance the seismic safety of UC buildings.

A bond measure on the March 2020 ballot, if approved by voters, would allocate $2 billion for UC’s infrastructure needs, including seismic improvements and new construction.

What is the process that has been used to evaluate buildings?

Guided by standards set by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), professional structural engineers are evaluating each building through a multi-tiered approach.

A professional structural engineer conducts a visual inspection of each building, reviews all available building construction drawings, and performs preliminary calculations. The information is used to determine the seismic rating level of the building. The engineer then shares the evaluation with independent peer engineers to validate the findings.

Engineers will conduct more analyses if a detailed investigation is required. The additional evaluations may include further structural analysis, forensic investigations to look at a building’s internal structure, and advanced 3-D modeling and simulation.

How do you determine which buildings will get renovated first?

The campus is prioritizing building remediation based on the seismic ratings. Thimann Labs, the Jack Baskin Engineering Building, and Kerr Hall currently have the greatest seismic needs and are undergoing more detailed reviews.

Where can I get a list of buildings that have been evaluated?

A summary of the buildings we have analyzed is available online. The review is ongoing with approximately 300 buildings still needing assessment.

The buildings with Level V and VI ratings will undergo an in-depth analysis to help us determine the best course of action. Buildings with a Level VII rating must be unoccupied and access must be restricted. UC Santa Cruz does not have any buildings with a Level VII rating.

UC’s policy provides a detailed explanation of the ratings and their meaning.

Was the Scotts Valley Center evaluated?

Before UC Santa Cruz leased space at the Enterprise Technology Center in 2016, the campus reviewed the building to ensure it met UC’s seismic policy. The building will soon be evaluated under the revised seismic policy.

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