Earthquakes and Unreinforced Masonry Buildings

Like most major cities in the United States, Seattle has many older brick/masonry buildings. Brick was a popular construction material due to it's resistance to fire and long-term stability. What previous generations of builders did not understand about brick buildings is how easily they can collapse during an earthquake. Once a brick wall starts to move and the mortar is broken, bricks can fly out of the wall, compromising the structure. Many buildings have brick exteriors and those are not affected because the brick is anchored to another structure, but for buildings who rely on bricks and masonry for their structure; earthquakes can be deadly.

The City of Seattle is contemplating how to handle both the necessary historical nature of these buildings and their dangerous status. In this video, the City of Seattle discusses how we can move forward in order to save the historic look of neighborhoods while making the buildings safer.

I participated in stakeholder discussions and voiced concerns about how mandated retrofitting would be paid for and what incentives would be given to help building owners. If the City moves forward without a plan in place, many owners may end up selling their buildings or tearing them down simply to save money.

If you want to learn more about reinforced Masonry: Watch this