Seismic retrofits needed to ensure student safety
Buildings on campus in need of repairs to strengthen footing on unstable land
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 19:10
Since the Hayward Fault, an active main fault that geologists consider past due for a major earthquake, runs directly through campus, seismically retrofitting older structures on campus has become a chief concern for the college administration.
To ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty alike in the event of an earthquake, buildings aging from 40 to 60 years old are planned to receive necessary retrofits beginning as early as May 2014.
The Contra Costa College Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit Studies report prepared by Thornton Tomasetti Building Solutions in November 2010 details the extent of structural and non-structural deficiencies of all buildings on campus. Each building was assigned a seismic risk level between I and VII, with level VII posing the highest risk to the lives of occupants during a major earthquake.
The study placed 13 of the buildings on campus at levels of IV and V, three of which are considered threatening to life at risk level V and will be addressed and corrected in the first two retrofit projects.
“There are a lot of old buildings on campus,” Building and Grounds Manager Bruce King said. “The ones most at risk are the Biology and Physical Sciences buildings and the Football Press Box.”
District Chief Facilities Plan-ner Ray Pyle said that planned seismic retrofits to older buildings on campus will be grouped together into four separate projects, with the first beginning as early as May 2014.
Project one will provide the Biology, Physical Sciences, Football Press Box, and Maintenance Warehouse buildings with necessary seismic retrofits. Thornton Tomasetti Inc. officials estimate that the soft cost to fix the structural and non-structural deficiencies would be just short of $2 million.
Support sections of any building’s infrastructure that are unable to withstand the seismic force of an earthquake are considered to be structural deficiencies, including cracks in support beams, inconsistencies in the building diaphragm and lack of necessary wall anchors. Any of these deficiencies could compromise the integrity of any building on campus during a major earthquake.
Non-structural deficiencies are objects inside a building that could come loose during an earthquake and cause bodily injury, including shelves, cabinets or lighting fixtures.
Project two clumps together the portables that house Police Services, Buildings and Grounds and Campus Receiving, all at seismic risk levels of IV out of VII. It would cost an estimated $182,208.
Projects three and four are both still in the planning stages, but when finished will include what to do with the Applied Arts and Administration Building, Gymnasium, Performing Arts, Gym Annex and Art buildings.
Funding for the later retrofit projects will be allocated from the district budget at a future date, but for the time being, CCC is focusing on project one, Pyle said.
He said that the funding for the project is coming from a 2006 California State Bond measure rebate of about $8 million. He plans to obtain additional funding for the retrofits by asking for donations from local redevelopment agencies.
Some of the older structures on campus have undergone retrofitting haphazardly over the past decade, he said.
“These were done on a project-by-project basis before I stepped into the position 10 years ago,” Pyle said.
Buildings on campus that have already been retrofitted are the Early Learning, Computer Technology, Library and Learning Resource and Student Services centers and the Liberal Arts Building. Pyle said these facilities were chosen seismic risk levels and frequent foot traffic, because they were recently built and are up to modern standards, or, in the case of the Early Learning Center, because of the young age of regular occupants.
The California Division of the State Architect created the seismic risk level scale in the late 1990s.
Information on the structural deficiencies and the building’s proximity to nearby fault lines is used to determine how the facility would withstand an earthquake of high magnitude.
After the buildings on campus were graded on their seismic risk levels, the college administration began prioritizing which buildings should receive retrofits first.
“We are going off this report and trying to retrofit the buildings most at risk first,” President Denise Noldon said.
“I would love to retrofit all of the buildings at once, however, that is just not possible. Students wouldn’t have anywhere to go to class, and the funding just isn’t there.”
Pyle said that because the Hayward Fault runs beneath CCC’s campus, it “falls under the Alquist-Priolo Zoning Act.”
He explained that the California state law, passed in 1972, created a 2,000-square-foot zone on either side of an active fault line where buildings cannot be built unless comprehensive geological studies are done at the site.
Pyle said that through the years there have already been dozens of trenches dug on campus by various third-party contracting engineering firms studying the effects of the fault on CCC’s campus.
The most recent trench study was conducted by Kleinfelder, Inc. in 2012, he said.
Dr. Noldon said that the results from the trench studies were used to expand the “Habitable Zone” on campus in which buildings could be built.