"If something is required, does it pencil out to retrofit it, or do I tear it down and build a high-rise?”
The proposed draft developed by the Portland URM Seismic Retrofit Project would require 1,800 unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs) to be systematically updated over a period of time, to increase safety and resiliency against a quake. The Portland Development Commission has held public forums on the matter to collect input, and the seismic committee intends to finalize the draft to bring before the city council by the end of the year.
The city has posted a database online of the nearly 1,800 buildings believed to be made of unreinforced masonry, which could be slated for upgrades if the proposal is approved. The Business Tribune took a walk around the Central Eastside Industrial District with Gemmell of Portland-based Earthquake Tech to eyeball the procedures and costs of the seismic upgrades that could soon be required.
Gemmell said the masonry buildings could be made from concrete blocks, bricks, clay blocks or a combination of those, and could be covered in stucco.
“When you see stucco, you start to wonder if it’s block,” Gemmell said. “The weakness with anything unreinforced is, nothing is going to keep it, from going (down).”
According to the city, breaking parapets and detaching walls are the main vulnerabilities of unreinforced masonry buildings.
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