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Re: Future of the Field Act

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Bill - Its a relief to hear of the demolition of old Albany High. I followed
the concerns of parents for several years. One of the confusing aspects of
the issue was Degenkolb's rather optimistic rating of the buildings years
ago. Others attempted to offer differing opinions, which I gather prevailed
in the long run. Did you disagree with Tom Wosser's opinions, and, if so,

Thank you for the information about old Field Act regulations. The
institutional memory of DSA in Sacramento is not what it used to be.
Fortunately we don't expect to encounter too many older concrete buildings
in the Field Act stock. They are mostly wood frame.

Its great to hear about an SE taking an active role in local government.
Keep it up. I hope you can encourage other engineers to do the same.


-----Original Message-----
From: Cain, William <bcain(--nospam--at)>
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)' <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 1999 3:42 PM
Subject: RE: Future of the Field Act

>You might want to have the Commission pay particular notice to notifying
>school districts with buildings built from 1933 to at least 1937 (there
>was a change to the Field Act regulations in 1937 but I was unable to
>find out if Appendix A, the actual building code provisions changed in
>that edition) and possibly as late as 1941.  During this period, the
>lateral force coefficient was only 0.04(DL+ 0.5LL).  In 1941, Appendix A
>shows a coefficient of  0.1(DL+0.5LL).
>The only copy of the 1933, 1937 and 1941 regulations I could find is in
>the EERC Library at UC's Richmond Field Station.  The 1933 and 1941
>copies included Appendix A, the 1937 copy did not.
>I found this information during the investigation of the Albany High
>School main building (built in 4 phases from 1933 through 1937) and the
>gymnasium approved in 1938 (I currently serve on the AUSD Board of
>Education).  These structures were located about 4,500 from the Northern
>Segment of the Hayward Fault (28% chance of a Magnitude 7.0 event from
>1990 through 2020 per the California Working Group on Earthquake
>Probabilities).  Observation of the ease with which the demolition
>contractor was able to knock the buildings down and the lack of
>significant ties between the walls and diaphragms (the 1933 Appendix A
>required ties at 18'-0" o.c. which was exactly what I observed during
>the demolition) makes these types of buildings a disaster waiting to
>happen.  Occupancy of the main building during a typical school period
>would have been about 700 students.  Had the building collapsed the way
>I think it would have under a likely Hayward M7 event, many of the
>students would have died or been seriously injured.
>Bill Cain, SE
>Oakland, CA
> -----Original Message-----
> From: fturner [SMTP:fturner(--nospam--at)]
> Sent: Thursday, February 11, 1999 16:51 PM
> To: seaint(--nospam--at)
> Subject: Future of the Field Act
> FYI, the Ca. Seismic Safety Commission adopted the following
>findings and
> recommendations today. It will consider noticing each school
>district about
> the need to inventory and assess collapse-risk schools at its
>next mtg March
> 11.
> The Future of the Field Act for Public Schools (17280 & 81130 et
> Education Code)
> Introduction
> The Field Act was enacted on April 10, 1933, one month after the
>Long Beach
> Earthquake in which "70 schools were destroyed, 120 schools
>suffered major
> damage, and 300 schools received minor damage."(Meehan and
>Jephcott, 1993)
> "Because schools are funded with public money, schools house the
>children of
> the electorate, legislative statutes require children to attend
>schools, and
> the school buildings performed so poorly in the earthquake, it
>was believed
> that the legislators, including the Governor, would support
> requiring public school buildings to be constructed earthquake
> (Meehan and Jephcott 1993 quoting Willett and Durkee, 1957)
> The Field Act and its regulations have been updated many times
>since its
> inception. It continues to be one of the most effective
>earthquake risk
> reduction measures undertaken by California. The superior
>performance of
> public schools in modern earthquakes and their critical role as
> relief facilities repeatedly demonstrates the Act's
> In 1976 public schools built before the Field Act were phased
>out of use or
> retrofitted to comply with the Act. Private Schools built or
>altered after
> 1986 must now comply with similar legislation enforced by local
> (Section 17320 et seq Education Code)
> However, the Field Act - and particularly its 1.5 to 4 percent
> premium [13, 14] and extra time required for compliance - is
> under criticism by some policymakers, developers and school
> Furthermore, local government building officials would like to
>be allowed
> the opportunity to enforce the Act in a manner similar to
>private schools.
> Seismic Safety Commission Efforts to Evaluate the Field Act
> Recognizing the continuing need to reassess and modernize the
>Act to include
> advances in social, economic, and technical knowledge, the
> Seismic Safety Commission (CSSC) held two public hearings in
>1998 to solicit
> advice and recommendations on the future of the Field Act
>program. An ad hoc
> committee developed the attached findings and recommendations
>based on the
> hearings and Commission discussions.
> Field Act Purpose:
> To protect children and staff from death and injury in public
>schools grades
> K - 14
> and protect the public's investment in school buildings during
>and after
> earthquakes.
> Seismic Safety Commission Findings:
> 1) It is justifiable to expect K-14 schools to be designed and
>built to a
> higher standard for the protection of life and public
> 2) Evidence exists from recent earthquakes such as Northridge,
>Landers, and
> Loma Prieta that K-14 facilities perform better than buildings
>built to age
> comparable local codes.
> 3) Continuous inspection by the inspector of record is a key
>element to the
> success of the Field Act.
> 4) Field Act authority should remain with the Division of the
> Architect (DSA). Local code enforcement agencies should be
>allowed to plan
> check public schools if certified and technically supervised by
> Seismic Safety Commission Recommendations:
> The CSSC recommends that the following be implemented by
> regulatory and administrative changes (no priority has been set
>at this
> time):
> a) Identify older Field Act Schools that are at risk of collapse
> subjected to strong earthquake shaking. These are schools built
>to outdated
> seismic design standards, or with deterioration or modifications
> compromise their seismic resistance. School districts should be
>required to
> identify, retrofit or phase out of use structures that pose
> risks to life in accordance with DSA guidelines and procedures.
> b) Grant stop-work authority to DSA to ensure effective code
>enforcement for
> all public school construction.
> c) Grant red tag authority to DSA for rapid post-disaster damage
> emergency management and recovery.
> d) Require complete code enforcement for mechanical, electrical,
> and architectural systems in new public school construction as
> required by the model codes for all other occupancies. This
>could perhaps be
> accomplished in cooperation with local building departments.
> e) Eliminate Field Act exemptions for charter schools and
>exemptions for
> small modernization projects currently allowed by the Field Act.
> f) Require all school districts to evaluate nonstructural
>elements and abate
> unacceptable falling risks when undertaking major alterations,
> renovations, or repairs, or in any event, no later than 2010.
>Require DSA to
> adopt mandatory retrofit standards for nonstructural falling
>risks. Train
> personnel at every school district facilities office to
>recognize and abate
> nonstructural risks.
> g) Implement effective maintenance programs within each school
>district to
> mitigate dryrot, roof leakage, and other serious maintenance
>needs that
> reduce seismic integrity. Require building evaluations of each
>school by an
> architect or structural engineer at least every 10 years.
> h) Require DSA to evaluate in a timely manner the qualifications
>of any
> local agency desiring to plan check public schools, and, if they
> qualified, to supervise them in the same manner as outside
> engineers are presently supervised.
> i) Strengthen the Private Schools Seismic Safety Act of 1986
>(Section 17320
> et seq Education Code) to eliminate exemptions, publish
>regulations in the
> California Building Code and require compliance by new day care
> j) Support benefit/cost studies to evaluate the effectiveness of
> construction costs for public school buildings as identified in
>the 1992
> Little Hoover Commission's Report titled "No Room for Johnny".