Soft Story Retrofit

We Are Your Soft Story Retrofit Experts in Southern California


There has recently been an ordinance passed by the City of Los Angeles, which requires the retrofit of all wood-frame Soft Story buildings. A soft-story building is a structure consisting of two stories or more, located over ground level with very large openings, for parking, garages, or a storefront. Because there are less walls these structures are “less stiff”, thus called “soft stories”. The building may be subject to structural failure during an earthquake without proper strengthening. Here at Built Strong Foundation we offer Soft Story Retrofitting for your property.

Buildings most vulnerable have been identified as:

  • Consisting of 2 or more stories - wood frame construction
  • Built under building codes before January 1st, 1978
  • Contains ground floor parking/similar open space
  • Ground or lower floors turned into office space, where offices are divided by glass partitions.

The program does not apply to residential buildings with 3 units or less.

To start the seismic retrofitting project, the first step is to analyze the structure and determine the best way to strengthen the building. Our foundation experts will take into consideration several factors. We will need to ensure the building will meet the structural standards required of retrofitted buildings engineering, as well as lower the impact of its use of the building.

To retro-fit a soft-story building, you can strengthen existing walls, add new ‘shear walls’ or add a steel frame in the soft areas of the building. To strengthen existing walls, finishes like drywall or stucco are replaced with sturdier plywood. Anchoring walls to the foundation is also part of the process. Adding shear walls — walls built for the sole purpose of adding lateral stability — can also be very effective, provided they don’t interfere with the structure’s function. If they do, a steel frame may be the best option, though such frames may be more expensive and dangerous to install (due to the fire hazard and noxious fumes generated from welding them into place) than other techniques.

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