4.3 Project Planning and Implementation Strategies
There are a number of options to consider in implementing a program to reduce the vulnerability of nonstructural components. As described above, one of the critical first steps is to define the project objectives with a clear understanding of what these basic, enhanced, or limited objectives will mean in terms of the expected performance of the facility and amount of structural and nonstructural damage that is expected to occur for a given level of shaking.
It is important to understand at the outset the level of commitment that is required from the organization in order to achieve the desired objectives. In order to achieve the Hazards Reduced nonstructural performance level, the bracing or anchoring of several obvious nonstructural falling hazards at a small commercial location may be accomplished by a skilled laborer over several weekends without any employee involvement. On the other hand, achieving the enhanced objectives which would allow for Immediate Occupancy or Operational performance levels requires a major commitment from the top down in an organization. Achieving a level of readiness that will allow a facility to remain fully operational will likely require both structural and nonstructural upgrades and a commitment of capital, both initial and ongoing; time for employee training; downtime for implementation; incorporation with purchasing, operations, maintenance, facilities, and clear assignment of responsibilities for implementation and ongoing program maintenance.
It is also important that someone at the planning stage takes a broad view of what is proposed. A facility survey will identify the items and areas of the facility that will be affected. As the objective is to improve seismic safety, it is important to also take note of existing seismic protections and see that these components are not compromised. It may be necessary to evaluate the strength of existing partition walls and floor or roof framing to see that these components have sufficient capacity to support the nonstructural items to be anchored. In some cases, structural components may need strengthening in order to support the loads from the nonstructural components.
Once the project objectives are defined, there are a range of different strategies that can be used for implementation. Installation of protective measures can be done immediately, in phases, as part of routine maintenance or scheduled remodeling. A comparison of preliminary cost estimates and schedules for several different implementation strategies consistent with the project objectives may help in deciding which implementation strategy will work best.
FEMA has published a series of guides addressing the incremental seismic rehabilitation of various types of facilities, including the related nonstructural components, as follows:
- FEMA 395—School Buildings
- FEMA 396—Hospital Buildings
- FEMA 397—Office Buildings
- FEMA 398—Multifamily Apartment Buildings
- FEMA 399—Retail Buildings
- FEMA 400—Hotel/Motel Buildings
One of the easier means of gradually implementing earthquake protection in an existing building is to train maintenance personnel to identify and to properly mitigate nonstructural hazards that they may discover as they survey the building for other purposes or to mitigate problems identified by an outside consultant engineer. The disadvantages of this approach are that protection is increased only gradually and the potential cost savings from doing several related projects at the same time may be lost.
Once nonstructural bracing and anchorage are installed, maintenance personnel should be trained to inspect and monitor the installations and be responsible for the upkeep of the protective measures where appropriate. For facilities with specialized equipment, this maintenance function must be performed by someone familiar with the equipment to ensure that the protective measures are installed and maintained without compromising the equipment functionality.
If there are other reasons for remodeling, there may be an opportunity to increase the protection of several nonstructural components at the same time, especially ceilings, partitions, windows, piping, and other built-in features. If an architect, interior designer, or contractor is handling the remodeling, the possibility of incorporating additional earthquake protection into the space should be discussed, and a structural engineer's expertise should be employed where indicated. Newly installed components will need to comply with current code requirements. Depending on the scope, the remodel may also trigger requirements to bring some existing components of the facility into compliance with current code; check the requirements for additions and alterations with the local jurisdiction.
A word of caution: In some cases, remodeling efforts have reduced rather than increased the level of earthquake protection through the accidental modification of components that originally received some seismic protection as a result of the input of a structural engineer or architect. It is important not to compromise existing seismic protections; it is also important not to overload partition walls, floor or roof framing, or an existing ceiling grid by using them to brace or anchor items that are too heavy. In some instances, the remodeling scope may need to be extended to include ceilings, partitions, or structural components so that the strength of these components can be upgraded to support additional loading.
In some cases, it may be possible to upgrade different areas within a building at different times or to select one or more types of nonstructural components throughout a building and upgrade them at the same time. Some projects can be completed in a weekend, making it possible to upgrade equipment or other items without interrupting the normal work flow. Companies with annual shutdown periods may find it wise to upgrade the highest-priority items during each annual shutdown. Work that interrupts the use of a space, such as setting up ladders or scaffolding to work on the ceiling or ceiling-located items, could be restricted to limited areas in a facility at a given time, minimizing the overall disruption.
An all-at-once implementation process, similar to that used in new construction, can be used in existing facilities either when the extent of the work required is small or when the work is extensive but the resulting disruption is tolerable. A favorable time for this approach is when a building is temporarily vacant, such as during planned renovations.
A guideline with a list of nonstructural items could be created to indicate special purchasing considerations. For example, file cabinets should have strong latches and wall or floor attachments, bookcases should have bracing and floor or wall attachments, and server racks should come with seismic detailing. Increasingly, vendors are marketing items with "seismic-resistant" details such as predrilled holes for anchorage. There are also many vendors that supply hardware and kits for seismic anchorage of equipment and furniture; these items should be stockpiled or ordered routinely along with each new equipment purchase. The effective use of these guidelines requires coordination between the purchasing and facilities or operations functions.
Integration with purchasing may be used in conjunction with any of the other strategies. If used alone, it will improve the safety of newly purchased items, but will not enhance the safety of existing items or address architectural items such as parapets, partitions, or ceilings. Over time, the safety of the facility will gradually improve as new items are purchased and existing items are replaced.