Seismic Safety

At UC Berkeley, Seismic Safety is a Priority

Following the adoption of the first University of California seismic policy in 1975, UC Berkeley participated in the first-ever study to assess and assign seismic performance ratings to campus buildings. Based on those results, UC Berkeley initiated numerous building retrofit projects.

In 1997, UC Berkeley commissioned a new seismic review of its buildings in response to significant advancements in structural engineering that followed several major seismic events in California. With this understanding, and in consideration of Berkeley’s proximity to the Hayward Fault, the age of campus buildings, and an obligation to provide safe facilities for students, faculty, and staff, the campus launched the Seismic Action plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal (SAFER) program. Under the SAFER program, significant progress was made toward improving the seismic resiliency of campus facilities. By the early-2000s, UC Berkeley had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in seismic improvements, including retrofits of three high-rise residence hall complexes, as well as retrofits of athletic facilities, libraries, and academic and administrative buildings.

In 2017, as part of a UC system-wide effort, UC Berkeley conducted a three-year comprehensive seismic review of campus buildings. In 2019, Chancellor Christ provided a campus update to faculty, staff, and students about the seismic reviews underway and how UC Berkeley priorities seismic safety, along with a summary Q&A. The review was completed in 2020. This proactive effort supports the Berkeley campus's ongoing strategy to have its buildings meet the most current University of California seismic standards. There are few, if any, such parallel seismic review efforts in the private sector.

To date, UC Berkeley has spent more than $1 billion implementing seismic improvement projects across more than one million square feet of space in dozens of buildings.

University of California Seismic Safety Program

Each building on every UC campus is designed and constructed in adherence to the building codes in effect at the time of construction. Additionally, the UC Seismic Policy (updated March 2021) provides guidelines for assessing buildings based on the latest advancements in scientific understanding of seismic events, as well as for associated changes in California buildings code arising from advances in engineering methodologies.

The University of California, in collaboration with the California Department of General Services and the California State University System, has developed a building rating system for seismic resiliency based on the existing California buildings code. The seismic performance ratings (SPRs) for UC buildings are:

  • SPR I - SPR IV: Seismic safety policy compliant
  • SPR V: Will require further evaluation and, if confirmed, must be addressed
  • SPR VI: Priority for improvement
  • SPR VII: Unoccupied and access-restricted

More details about the UC seismic program and the building performance ratings are available from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP):

Seismic performance ratings and reports for UC Berkeley buildings:

UC Berkeley Post-Earthquake Building Evaluation Protocol

The campus has an Emergency Operations Plan that outlines the organizational framework, guidance, and authority for responding to and recovering from an emergency. This policy specifically defines the process for Post-Earthquake Building Evaluation and the protocols for evaluating the structural integrity of buildings and infrastructure following a seismic event.