The Golden Gate Bridge

Stanford University

In 1906, Stanford had a reputation as one of the best-equipped campuses in the country, even though it was about one-tenth the size it is today. But things changed dramatically on April 18, when the great earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, killing a staff member and a student on Stanford's campus and damaging one-third of its buildings.

Stanford Quad
Stanford University Quad
More than a decade passed before the university recovered its enrollment levels and reputation, but recover it did.

Fast-forward 83 years to the Loma Prieta quake, which resulted in no deaths on campus and no fallen buildings. Still, the structural damage was between $120 million and $250 million in losses, causing Stanford to aggressively assess its long-term needs, particularly to preserve the architectural integrity of the original buildings on the Main Quad. Many structural engineering firms, including Rutherford & Chekene and DASSE Design were called in at various times to work on seismically rehabilitating historic Stanford.

The Quadrangle contains Stanford's oldest buildings, constructed between 1887 and 1891. Not just a meeting place for students and faculty, the Quad hosts gatherings of alums, tourists and even local wedding parties.

Stanford Mitchell Building
Stanford Mitchell Building
Although gutting a building makes it possible to build a seismically much tighter structure, the university decided to upgrade the damaged quarters of the Quad without removing all the existing wood structure, a process that the structural engineers had used in the '60s to retrofit other parts of the Quad.

Beyond protecting the lives of the people on campus, the structural engineers helped Stanford reduce the risk of catastrophic losses and, where possible, assessed the requirements of other buildings using a cost/benefit analysis. They recommended procedures that not only represented a significant innovation in reconstruction, but substantially reduced the cost of construction.

Stanford History Corner
Stanford History Corner
Although the various retrofits on different parts of the Main Quad look the same, they actually vary considerably in detail. During the work on the Stanford Quad, for example, the existing floors and roof were used as bracing for the old walls, and the existing floors served as formwork for the new concrete slabs. In the History Corner project shotcrete was added to the interior of the sandstone-faced unreinforced brick masonry. For the Language and Geology Corner projects, the existing wood floors and roof were saved, and the sandstone facade remained virtually untouched.

Stanford Memorial Church
Stanford Memorial Church
The Memorial Church project involved only roof repairs. The existing dome roof and skylight of this historic church were investigated for evidence of deterioration and leakage, and remedial measures were implemented. The Structural Engineers reviewed the existing framing and provided structural drawings for a new plywood roof. The principals paid particular attention to to providing appropriate diaphragm details and connections to the central skylight opening and providing connections from the edge of the plywood diaphragm to the concrete structure of the church.

Nearly 80 buildings on campus have been retrofitted since 1989, costing more than $250 million, with another $750 million in projects slated for the next three years.