A number of UCSB buildings are at risk of collapse or severe damage should an earthquake occur, according to a recent study.
Throughout the entire UC system, the report stated, there are about 10 structures that have the potential to collapse in the event of a large earthquake, with over 100 more active buildings systemwide that would pose safety hazards. All of the buildings remain in use.
Among the UCSB buildings that present the highest safety risk in an earthquake are Davidson Library and Ortega Dining Commons. According to UC officials, the universities are aware of their earthquake vulnerabilities, but may lack the finances to complete the proper retrofits. California Watch, the entity that published the study this month, is a reporting initiative started by the independent, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting.
As estimated by Bonnie Crouse, assistant director of residential dining at UCSB, Ortega Dining Commons serves around 3,000 students a day. Davidson Library has an estimated 1.5 million visitors each year.
The UC system includes an assortment of over 5,000 structures, a majority of them constructed during the 1950s and ’60s, prior to the development of modern earthquake engineering. In 1975, growing concerns for the damage an earthquake could wreak on UC campuses led to the adoption of a systemwide policy compelling UC chancellors to fix buildings that could collapse in a significant earthquake.
Since then, according to Patrick Lenz, UC vice president for Budget and Capital Resources, the system has slated a substantial amount of money towards earthquake-ready renovations.
“More than $1 billion has been spent on seismic projects since 1979,” Lenz said.
However, even with the introduction of this UC-wide policy and boosted spending on seismic safety, the UC received negative marks for its buildings’ earthquake preparedness in a 1994 report released by the Campus Earthquakes Program. The program — the result of a five-year research project — reported on the capacity of seven different UC campuses to withstand seismic activities. The project was performed using data from several seismic monitoring stations at a variety of UC and CSU campuses.
Ralph Archuleta, UCSB professor of seismology in the Institute for Crustal Studies, contributed to the ’94 CEP study by shaking the Engineering I building with equipment borrowed from UCSD. The equipment aimed to simulate and help predict the effects a substantial earthquake would have on Engineering I and other similar buildings.
Although the CEP tagged numerous UC structures for retrofit, the UCs still have over 100 buildings, including UCSB’s Ortega Dining Commons, UCLA’s Clark Library and the UC Davis Medical Center, that are at risk of collapse or severe damage should an earthquake occur, the California Watch report revealed.
According to California Watch, the UC, like CSUs, are prohibited from using certain types of construction funding to pay for seismic retrofits. This forces universities to make do with less funding than they need to cover all projects, and put some seismic retrofits on the back burner, the report said.
Steve Montiel, media relations representative at the UC Office of the President, said the way seismic repairs are tackled varies greatly from campus to campus. Because of this, Montiel said, the $1 billion spent by the UC on seismic retrofit since 1979 has still not been enough to cover all the repairs needed.
“It’s fairly decentralized.” Montiel said. “Each campus really has control over their repairs.”