Developers Taking New Measures With Oklahoma Earthquakes On The Rise
TULSA, Oklahoma - Developers are taking new measures to protect Tulsa’s signature skyline from earthquakes. There were always building codes for wind in Oklahoma, but not necessarily earthquakes.
Many of the buildings downtown went up in the 20s when earthquakes weren’t even on the radar. Now, those buildings being remodeled have to add at least one massive X-brace, as developers call them, on each floor.
In the Vandever lofts on East 5th Street, they’ve incorporated them into the design of some of the apartments.
“Residents really seem to like the feature. It’s something unique and cool in an old building,” said Apartment Manager, Monika Bhow.
For developers, the news that they needed to take the extra steps came as a bit of a surprise.
“Initial plans, when I saw them, I either didn’t realize the size or scope of these seismic braces, but once they were up I really realized what an impact they make on the whole construction project,” Bhow said.
In the Harrington Lofts, Doug Rains thought his mom was joking when she broke the news to him.
“It’s sturdy now and it was about a six week project,” Rains said.
He said they weren’t expecting the process or the cost; each one of the braces can cost $20,000.
“The design is to support the columns so if an earthquake did happen it would distribute the force between the buildings, it wouldn’t be just a stiff structure. So if there was a massive earthquake it would keep building completely secure and safe,” said Rains.
Oklahoma adopted the international building code in 2009 and earthquake protection has always been a part of it.
“Probably sinking some teeth into it just due to the fact that we’ve seen a rise in number of earthquakes in the area,” said Structural Engineer, Larry Vorba.
Vorba also said we are hearing more about earthquake braces because a lot of the residential construction going on now is in buildings from the 20s. He said they are masonry or concrete construction and in an earthquake they would work against themselves.
“Cause they’re very heavy and they’re massive and they’re very stiff. And so when the ground moves, they try and stay where they were and that develops big sheer forces through the building structure,” he said.
Rains said, “It was a bit of a surprise, I didn’t’ think it was much of an issue. In my view this building has been standing for almost 100 years, but we have been getting more earthquakes recently, so at least we’re safe now and have nothing to worry about.”
Another issue developers faced was trying to find the welders familiar enough with how to work the X-braces since it is such a new concept in the area.
Each development is different, but across the board in the state of Oklahoma, now, it’s not protection against strong winds but earthquakes that all developers need to take before the projects are signed off on.