List of 'Killer Buildings' available to Los Angeles officials next month

Northridge Earthquake

Eric Gelinas via Flickr Creative Commons

An apartment building in Reseda, CA in January of 1994 after the Northridge Earthquake.

A list of  seismically unsound buildings that has been years in the making will finally be available to Los Angeles city officials in September.

The inventory will detail  buildings that feature a non-ductile concrete design. These are structures with stiff reinforced concrete frames that don't bend easily when shaken, increasing the chances of failure during an earthquake.

Non-ductile concrete buildings have a been around for a long time. Some in California date back to the 1890s and the design was used until the 1970's, when stricter building codes went into effect.

It's estimated there are around 1,600 such buildings in Los Angeles alone.  Researchers think 5-10% of them are at risk of collapse when a major earthquake strikes.

Since 2007, a team of researchers from UCLA, UC Berkeley and San José State University have been mapping these potentially dangerous structures.  They've relied on information from a number of sources including the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, the Department of Building and Safety, Google Maps and in-person building inspections.

"The public data sources are the backbone of the inventory," reads a report from 2008 outlining the project.

The list of seismically unsound buildings will detail exact locations, the size and occupancy rate, but it will not be made public. City officials will be given access to the information.

The release of the list comes just as the LA City Council is renewing calls for documentation of seismically risky structures.  In July, Council Member Tom LaBonge asked for an inventory of soft-story buildings in LA, another type of structure prone to severe quake damage.

"The issue of earthquakes is always upon us," LaBonge told KPCC.  He said the inventory should be the first step in preparing for the next large quake.

Members of the LA City Council have been requesting a seismic safety inventory for years, but none was ever officially released.

The list of non-ductile concrete buildings, prepared by university researchers and funded by the National Science Foundation, will  be provided to LA city officials in September according to principal investigator, Jack Moehle.  

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