Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over

General Abstract

3 - Accommodating Seismic Code Requirements within Project Budgets

Monday, September 24
2:45 PM - 4:15 PM
Location: BNCC- 101AH

On August 23, 2011, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit Mineral, Virginia, about 90 miles southwest of Washington, DC. The resulting accelerations damaged many buildings, including the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Estimates of the damage range up to $100 million, and concern for seismic risk grew in the DC Metro region as a direct result. Building owners began to ask the following questions: “Are we safe?” and “How much will seismic retrofits cost?” Engineers on renovation and preservation projects were confronted with a concerned and more-informed public, but still had to contend with tight budgets.
Seismic retrofit of historic structures is a costly enterprise, and therefore, limiting the scope of seismic retrofit to the essential elements is often crucial to keep a project within budget. Understanding upfront when these code provisions would be triggered is essential to informed early-stage decisions by the owner and project team in developing, from the outset, a scope and approach that best suit the project needs and provide some improvement in public safety. Late, unexpected triggering of code provisions that may lead to a project so over budget that an Owner may delay action on the project, resulting in no improvement to public safety or repairs to historic fabric. This presentation will walk through the latest codes for existing buildings and discuss specific provisions under what circumstances and to what extent seismic upgrades are required in various cases. The presentation will provide an overview of these codes and look at general concepts for seismic retrofit that owners should ask their engineers as projects begin. The presentation will then go through specific examples and highlight different approaches taken to provide high value (high benefit for relatively lower cost) seismic upgrades to existing buildings. For contrast, the presentation will also review a project where invasive and extensive seismic retrofits were required as a direct result of the 2011 earthquake. This contrast will highlight the importance and value of seismic evaluation and proactive retrofit of existing buildings.
The 2011 Mineral Virginia earthquake demonstrated that upgrading existing historic buildings to fully meet current codes can greatly improve public safety; however, this process can be so extensive that it is grossly destructive of historic fabric, and furthermore, it can be costly to the building owner and that can prevent any project (and hence any improvement to public safety) from proceeding. Understanding the building code and limiting the intervention to crucial elements is important to reducing project costs and enable/greenlight a project that includes some level of seismic retrofit, thereby improving public safety. After all, if no seismic retrofit because they are too expensive, then the built environment does not become any safer.

Learning Objectives:

Adam Rush, PE

Senior Staff II
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Adam Rush, PE joined Simpson Gumpertz & Heger in 2018 after the firm acquired Keast & Hood’s Washington, DC office. He earned his MS in Earthquake Engineering (2007) from the University of Pavia, Italy as a Fulbright Scholar, and his BS in Civil Engineering (2005) from NC State as a Park Scholar. A fortunate career has fueled his passion for historic preservation with dream projects including: Rotunda at UVA renovation, Jefferson Memorial roof restoration, Main St Station restoration in Richmond, Center Stage renovation in Baltimore, National Gallery of Art East Wing Façade restoration, and Mt Vernon condition assessment. Adam is an active member in the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) and served as the President of the DC chapter in 2013.


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David Bittermann

National Park Service

David Bittermann, AIA
Chief, Design and Preservation Planning
NPS Northeast Region - Historic Architecture, Conservation, and Engineering

David Bittermann, AIA, has served 34 years with the National Park Service, where he is currently Chief of Design and Preservation Planning for the Historic Architecture, Conservation, and Engineering Center (HACE) in the Northeast Regional Office. The center provides a variety of cultural resources services with its staff of Historical and Landscape Architects, Engineers, Architectural and Object Conservators, and Historians to 83 client National Parks in the Northeast Region, ranging geographically from Maine to Virginia. David is a former Board Member of APTNE, and for several years taught Architectural Conservation at Boston University. He received an M. Architecture degree from the University of Illinois and an MA from Boston University.


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3 - Accommodating Seismic Code Requirements within Project Budgets

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