The Golden Gate Bridge

UC Berkeley

Over the past 35 years, Structural Engineers in Northern California and officials of the University of California at Berkeley have collaborated to save many of the historic buildings on campus while at the same time advancing the science of earthquake engineering.


Berkeley Stadium
Because the Hayward Fault traverses its campus, UC Berkeley decided in the early 1970s to launch a comprehensive seismic safety program. Its goal was to preserve its historic buildings and ensure that any new construction on campus could withstand a future quake with acceptable levels of building damage. The stakes for not doing this work were high; if a major earthquake shut down the campus, there would be long-term impact to both the UC system and the Bay Area economy.


The first task was to assess each existing building and rank it as Good, Fair, Poor or Very Poor. Structural engineering firms of Rutherford and Chekene, Forell/Elsesser, and Degenkolb Engineers performed this campuswide evaluation. Thus began a relationship between in-house UC Berkeley engineers, professors and administrators, and independent structural engineering firms a team effort that has lasted for nearly four decades.

By the late '70s, UC Berkeley had the necessary data in hand and began its program to rehabilitate its buildings, starting with the most vulnerable structures. South Hall, one of the oldest buildings still standing on campus, was among this first group. Also included in the earlier years were Doe Library, Life Sciences Building, Dormitory Units I, II, and III, and Moffitt Library.


Hearst Mining Building
The total cost of UC Berkeley's seismic program over the past three and a half decades has exceeded $650 million, one of the largest undertakings of this university or any university in California higher education system.

At no time was this collaboration more important than after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Among the buildings damaged in the October quake was the Hearst Mining Building , home of the Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering and a structure listed in the National Register.

The team of independent Structural Engineers and university engineers and professors transformed this pre-1900 structure into a state-of-the art research laboratory building. The renovation project cost $68 million. The key solution included the use of base-isolation technology. Base isolation is one of the newest technologies Structural Engineers use to help buildings withstand the earth's motion during an earthquake and minimize loss of life and property. Not only will the Hearst Mining Building remain standing and lives be saved during an earthquake, but the critical experiments being conducted inside the building will also be protected.


Structural Engineers spend a lot of time in the field,
here one observes a full-scale steel connection test
at UC Berkeley
While much of the work on the UC campus involved saving older buildings, decisions were also made to replace several structures, including Stanley Hall, which is now a state-of-the-art complex. In this project, the Structural Engineers applied buckling restrained braced frames (BRBF), a diagonally braced frame in which all members of the bracing systems are subjected to axial forces, a new technology developed in Japan. To be certain this technology was right for the project, the university conducted research and testing to verify the system performance. Thus, the collaboration of practitioner and academician helped advance the newest techniques of saving buildings, lives and ongoing research projects.

The university incorporated this new technology also into its new central dining facility which currently feeds three meals a day to more than 3,000 students and is now being used in structures outside the university system.