UCSF Conducts Comprehensive Seismic Review of All Buildings

By Lisa Cisneros

UC San Francisco is conducting a comprehensive seismic review of its owned and leased buildings across the campus and clinical enterprise as part of its long history of working to better understand their seismic resiliency.

This current evaluation is part of a proactive UC-wide effort launched last year to assess buildings across the University. It supports UCSF’s seismic program and is a part of UCSF’s ongoing efforts to ensure that its buildings meet UC’s current seismic standards.

While all UCSF buildings were designed and constructed to the codes and standards that were in place at the time of their construction or renovation, building codes change every three years and UCSF’s existing buildings are being rated in light of evolving research and advances in geotechnology and seismology.

“Seismic safety is important to UCSF as we live in a state in which seismic standards are regularly updated, and this prompts us to make enhancements to our buildings,” said Chancellor Sam Hawgood. “Our current seismic performance review is part of the University of California’s systemwide effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members of our UC community, faculty, staff, learners, patients, neighbors and visitors.”

The UC-wide assessment augments UCSF’s ongoing seismic program, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over more than two decades to comply with evolving seismic standards and to improve the seismic performance of its building portfolio.

Current projects underway include strengthening the seismic resiliency of the Clinical Sciences Building on the Parnassus Heights campus, among other major projects identified there, and building a new research building at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG).

UCSF has completed the first group of its seismic assessment reports, which are available online.

Of the 48 buildings evaluated to date, representing about 20 percent of UCSF’s 239 buildings under review, most have been rated fair or better by an independent team of leading seismic and structural engineering experts. Of the 48 buildings evaluated, 41 are in compliance with the UC policy and do not require further evaluation or remediation. Results for seven buildings require additional retrofitting or further evaluation.

The work to complete the evalution of the remaining 191 buildings is under way. All seismic assessments of owned and leased buildings are targeted to be completed by June 2020.

Working with Leading Engineers

An independent team of leading structural engineers specializing in seismic evaluation, research, design and construction has been working with UCSF since 2011. This team, called the UCSF Seismic Review Committee (SRC), is systematically evaluating owned and leased buildings using the standards set by the American Society of Civil Engineers that underlie the California Existing Buildings Code, in compliance with UC’s policy.

The SRC meets monthly to peer review and rate UCSF buildings, evaluate prospective leases and acquisitions of buildings, review the structural design of all new buildings, as well as designs for seismic renovations to existing buildings. The SRC also advises UCSF on ways to make compliant buildings safer and more resilient, and advises on how to establish priorities for seismic compliance.

“We are fortunate to be working with a team of nationally recognized leaders and innovators in the fields of seismic performance and structural engineering to evaluate our buildings and give us their best advice,” said Michael Bade, associate vice chancellor and university architect who has led capital projects since joining UCSF in 2004. 

Going forward, UCSF will prioritize seismic remediation based on recommendations from the SRC that take into account various factors such as a building’s age, use, population, structural resiliency and geology. Based on the SRC’s advice, UCSF leaders will decide whether to repair, temporarily vacate, or retire buildings.

Investing in Seismic Upgrades

Over the years, UCSF has significantly increased its stock of seismically compliant buildings through a combination of constructing new faciliites, retrofitting older faciliites, vacating and selling buildings, Bade said.

UCSF has regularly conducted seismic evaluations independent of the current UC-wide initiative, and has invested hundreds of millions in seismic renovations and new construction, all in accordance with the California Building Code in effect at the time.

Among the seismic enhancement projects underway:

  • Building under construction.

    The Clinical Sciences Building at Parnassus Heights is currently undergoing renovation, which includes seismic upgrades. Photo by Susan Merrell

    Clinical Sciences Building is undergoing seismic upgrades, which are planned for completion in early 2020;
  • UC Hall, the original UC hospital, is being vacated in early 2020 as people and programs will be moved to newer and compliant space, and will be closed until a decision is made about its future;
  • Nine UCSF-leased research buildings at ZSFG have been identified for improvements, which factored into the decision to build a new research facility at ZSFG to be completed in 2022;
  • The Hellman Building at Mount Zion is being retired, with most people and programs already relocated for an anticipated closure; and
  • exterior of Hellman Building

    Built in 1911 to serve the poor, the Esther Hellman Building was the first Mount Zion Hospital built from the ground up. It's being retired and is slated for closure.

    The Health Science Instruction and Research building, known as Health Sciences East and West towers, is being seismically enhanced to improve its resiliency.

All UCSF’s inpatient hospitals meet current seismic standards as regulated by California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. UCSF opened three new hospitals at Mission Bay in 2015, each of which meets the state seismic law (SB 1953) that set requirements for inpatient hospitals to meet by 2030.

The two adjoining hospitals, Moffitt and Long, on the Parnassus Heights campus were designed and constructed to the codes that applied at the time of their construction or last renovation. Long meets state requirements for inpatient uses after 2030 and does not require a retrofit.

UCSF is currently planning for a new hospital at Parnassus Heights to open its doors in 2029. This new facility will replace Moffitt and will meet the state seismic safety requirements for use after 2030. The new Parnassus Heights hospital also will enable UCSF to accommodate the growing needs of patients, families, clinicians, staff and neighbors.

UCSF’s seismic assessment is timely given that a Public Education Facilities Bond has been placed on the March 2020 ballot. If approved by voters, the $2 billion that the measure allocates to UC sets the stage for the biggest capital investment in the University since 2006. This bond measure would provide funding to address critical infrastructure needs, including seismic retrofits.

UC will work with each campus to prioritize and plan for further retrofitting or replacement work to meet location-specific needs. As this comprehensive seismic review continues, UCSF will provide periodic updates on the work in progress.