Issue 479

The Dilemma of Existing Buildings

Private property, public risk

SPUR Report

San Francisco's earthquake resilience is limited by its existing building stock. Some of our buildings are simply unsafe. But a broader problem, fundamental to emergency planning, is that even our safe buildings are inadequate to support the response and recovery efforts we know will be needed. Earthquake mitigation should address that shortcoming: Our policies and programs need to target the vulnerabilities that could turn a manageable emergency into a catastrophe.

Resilience – the ability to respond to an earthquake emergency and to recover without lasting disruption – can be measured by the speed and completeness with which essential functions, and eventually routine operations, are restored. SPUR has proposed resilience targets for city services, housing, transportation, and other key sectors of the built environment. Hitting those targets will require buildings that can be used right away for evacuation centers, emergency shelters, hospitals, certain city departments, and the vast majority of private residences. Beyond the first 72 hours, recovery will depend on other structures too, like schools, offices, and retail. Earthquake resilience goes hand in hand with building performance.

This SPUR report links resilience-critical functions with the types of structures that house them and recommends six strategies for inproving the resilience of San Francisco's exisitng buildings. By understanding which services are affected by vulnerable structure types, we can improve not only individual building performance but citywide resilience.

Download the report >>

The SPUR Board of Directors reviewed, debated and adopted this report as official policy on July 16, 2008.

This report generously underwritten by Degenkolb Engineers

Before the Disaster Task Force Chair: Chris Poland

Primary authors: Chris Poland (Defining Resilience), David Bonowitz (Existing Buildings), Joe Maffei (New Buildings), Christopher Barkley (Lifelines)
Before the Disaster Task Force Members: Ross Asselstine Chris Barkley, David Bonowitz, Laurie Johnson, Joe Maffei, Jack Moehle, John Paxton, Robert Pekelnicky, Jes Penderson, Chris Poland, Laura Dwelley- Samant, Michael Theriault, Tom Tobin, Debra Walker, George Williams, Jessica Zenk

Resources: Kent Ferre, Laurence Kornfield, Hanson Tom

SPUR lead staff: Sarah Karlinsky

Image courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration