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Creating a SAFER place to work, live and study
University makes earthquake preparedness a top priority

Renewing the Foundations of Excellence

With seismic improvement needs in excess of $1 billion and the looming threat of a major quake along the Hayward Fault in mind, the Berkeley campus takes seismic rehabilitation seriously.

In fact, seismic work is a driving force in much of the campus construction projects taking place now and in the near future.

The campus's seismic safety program, unparalleled among the nation's universities, is guided by the Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal, or SAFER. The 10-point, comprehensive response plan was launched by Chancellor Robert Berdahl after a thorough seismic evaluation showed 27 percent of campus space was rated poor or very poor and in need of significant seismic repair.

"Clearly our first concern is that everyone who works, lives or studies at Berkeley is as safe as possible in the event of a major earthquake," Berdahl said. "But there is another concern this plan addresses. The fact of the matter is, if Berkeley were put out of business by an earthquake, recovery for the state and the region would be jeopardized, and the impact locally and nationally would be felt for years afterward."

One of the top priorities of SAFER's 10-point action plan was the hiring of a new vice chancellor for capital projects. Edward Denton came on board in 1998 and, since then, has overseen all aspects of the SAFER program, as well as deferred maintenance and infrastructure upgrades.

Funding for initial projects that are part of the nearly $1.2 billion of seismic work needed over the next 20 years has come from several sources, including a $42 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $70 million from the passage of Proposition 1A, as well as university and state funds.

Work is well under way at the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, and has recently started on Wurster and Barrows Halls, and Silver Lab, and is scheduled to begin on Barker, Hildebrand and Latimer Halls this fall. Examples of seismic retrofit work completed (some prior to SAFER) are: Dance Facility, Doe Library, Dwinelle Hall, Haas Pavilion, McCone Hall, Marchant Building (6701 San Pablo), Residence Halls, South Hall, University Hall and Wheeler Hall.

While most staff, faculty and students will remain in these buildings during construction, others have been or will be moved to other classrooms and offices or to "surge" locations.

For example, residents of Wurster Hall are currently occupying a complex of temporary metal buildings built on Hearst Field, just west of the Hearst Gym. One of the buildings also houses the Pacific Film Archive theater.

Denton expects these structures to remain for at least five years, housing various departments during seismic work.

Plans are under way for the Seismic Replacement Building to be built on the Oxford Tract. While intended as a permanent structure, the building will house "surged" faculty and staff for the next several years.

"We have made great progress in the last few years," said Denton of the SAFER Plan, "but still have a lot of work ahead of us as we implement our plan to make the campus a safer place for students, faculty and staff."

The 10-point SAFER plan

1. Create a new position titled Vice Chancellor for Capital Projects whose duties will include overseeing all aspects of the SAFER Program.

2. Form an Executive Campus Planning Committee chaired by the Chancellor to be responsible for all physical planning decisions on the campus, including the coordination of seismic projects with academic program improvements.

3. Establish campus precinct planning committees to assess seismic needs in specific areas of campus along with campuswide functional assessment committees.

4. Determine the need for full or partial closure of facilities posing an unacceptable risk for continued use.

5. Create a master plan for facilities renewal.

6. Overhaul and streamline capital project management to increase efficiency and cost effectiveness.

7. Develop plans for obtaining temporary space, sites, and buildings to house functions that must be relocated as structures are renovated, or, in some cases, demolished and replaced.

8. Initiate a multiple-source financing plan to implement the plan for seismic corrections.

9. Ensure comprehensive emergency preparedness and provide training.

10. Develop a comprehensive campus and community communications plan.

Renewing the Foundations of Excellence home

Source: Berkeleyan Special Issue, Fall 2000