Charles Darwin, in his pondering about evolution, came to the conclusion that a species survives based upon its “fitness” to overcome the many forces intent upon making it extinct. “Survival of the fittest” is a concept adaptable to earthquake design for buildings. Engineers learn from past performances of structures and incorporate design concepts that hopefully balance safety concerns with the economics of building. Structures built on outdated knowledge and experience deserve the attention of professionals and officials charged with public safety. The need to improve our existing building stock is self evident if we choose to preserve our heritage and protect our built environment. Earthquakes shouldn’t be a means to selectively trim our building inventories.
The Utah Seismic Safety Commission endorsed the concept of addressing the seismic concerns of existing buildings during its April 1999 meeting. Informally termed the “existing buildings initiative”, the commission encouraged participation by the Structural Engineers Association of Utah, and other organizations to help advocate the need to improve existing building performance in earthquakes.
In July, 1999 the USSC commission partnered with SEAU to establish an ad hoc committee on existing buildings with the express charge to develop a membership of “stake holders” to review, assess, and recommend possible means to address seismic hazards of existing buildings. Additionally USSC endorsed a recommendation to the Utah Uniform Building Code commission to adopt statewide the Uniform Code for Building Conservation (UCBC 2000) as a model code for the rehabilitation of existing buildings. Due to a change in the authority to publish a code independent from the International Building Codes, the updated UCBC was changed to “Guidelines for the Seismic Retrofit of Existing Buildings”. This was subsequently endorsed by resolution in addition to the 1997 UCBC and the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings by the Utah Uniform Building Code commission in September 2000.