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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is soft story retrofitting?
    A soft-story retrofit simply adds to and reinforces the structure of the building so it can hold up much better in an earthquake. The main goal is to make sure the building is still standing after an earthquake hits and ensure the safety of everyone in and around the building. Soft-story buildings are particularly susceptible to earthquake damage because of large, unreinforced openings on their ground floors and in their typically wood-frame construction. These openings often accommodate parking spaces, large windows and expansive lobbies in residential and retail buildings. Without proper design, such structures are much less able to withstand the lateral forces -- forces that push a structure side to side -- that earthquakes generate. Once the first floor folds, the upper floors pancake down on top of it, crushing anything underneath
  • Who needs soft stoty retrofitting done?
    If the property has "tuck-in" parking and has two or three stories, and has more than 3 units, it may need some retrofitting done. If you received a letter about your deadline approaching to have your permit pulled, you may need retrofitting done. if you live in any of the following cities and own an apartment building, you may need retrofitting done: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Pasadena, Beverly Hills. We only retrofit for commercial properties*
  • Which cities have soft story ordinances?
    Los Angeles Santa Monica Beverly Hills West Hollywood Pasadena Voluntary: Long Beach, Burbank.
  • For what reasons would I redesign my soft story retrofit plans?
    Redesigning plans for your project can make sense for several reasons: Cost There are many different engineering solutions to meet the standards of compliance with city ordinances. Some designs can be much more costly to construct than others. Zebra works with several design professionals who specialize in reducing the scope of work for each project and often times can save you money on the full scope of the project. ​ Error Often times engineers send inexperienced drafters to draw your building. Many times they don’t notice utilities, existing structural elements, or unique facia that may be costly to deal with in the construction phase. Zebra always makes sure that each possible construction issue Is avoided before the plans are submitted to the city. ​ Efficiency Simply put. Some plans are more involved and time consuming to build. Redesigning can often times lessen the impact on the tenants. We make sure the new plans will keep the construction phase to a minimum in both time and tenant disruptions. Tenants almost always will have overnight parking available and a clean and safe place to live. Peace of mind How has your experience been with the engineer you hired? Have you had issues with communication, timeliness, or unforeseen charges? The engineer is still involved throughout construction. They attend site visits for structural observations and must be available for potential design changes if the existing conditions don’t match the approved plans. If the engineer does not communicate or show up for site visits, it can lead to problems. Zebra always offers transparent and fixed proposals on soft story projects, we promise no change orders or unexpected charges.
  • What is the most important thing to consider when starting a project?
    The most important part of a soft story retrofit project is the engineering as it ultimately determines the construction costs. There are multiple ways to design a soft story retrofit project and the city will not tell you if there are extra elements which may not be needed for an economical build. There are a few different options when it comes to engineering. Option #1: Design/Build company which can create your plans and do the construction. Questions to ask: Are construction costs fixed up front? What types of changes or extra charges do they forsee? ​ Option #2: Hire an Engineer or architect. Questions to ask: Who are contractors you have worked with on retrofit projects? (Call them!) What are some projects you have completed? (Can you talk to the contractors and owners?) What extra fees are there? Structural observations? Field changes? Can you receive the plan copy before it is submitted? This way you can get the opinion of a few contractors on the design to see any issues which may arise during construction before you are locked into the design. ​ Pros and Cons: If the engineer is also the contractor, they may not design it the most economically to profit from construction. If you work with a contractor who fixes their construction estimate before plans are created, you know they will keep the engineer on budget since they have a set amount. ​ If the engineer is working solo, they may not know the exact cost of construction items. For example, a shear wall may seem like an economical option to most engineers. But they are not taking into consideration the old plaster on the opposite side of the wall in the tenant's unit which could crack and crumble due to age while knocking stucco down on the opposite side. They also may not take into account the extra labor and time it takes to frame a shear wall and also stucco it at the end of the project. A steel solution is more economical most times and projects move much quicker with steel. ​ No one can tell you what the best option is for you, but these are some things to think about when making your decision. ​
  • What is a THP?
    What is a Tenant Habitability Plan (“THP”)A Tenant Habitability Plan, commonly known as “THP,” is the heart of the Tenant Habitability Program. THP is a document prepared by a property owner with the assistance of the Department’s Tenant Habitability Program unit staff. The THP describes the scope of the work and the methods that the owner, contractor, and workers will use to mitigate potential impact to the tenants and the tenants’ personal property during the period that renovation work occurs in a tenant’s unit or the subject building and premises. The intent of the Tenant Habitability Program is to protect tenants from untenantable housing conditions and/or forced permanent displacement. If you plan to renovate, repair, or alter a building subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), your proposed work may qualify within the scope of the Tenant Habitability Program. There are two types of qualified work for the Tenant Habitability Program Primary Renovation Program Landlords wanting to take advantage of the Primary Renovation Cost Recovery program must first complete the requirements for the Tenant Habitability Program. Once the work has been completed, an application can be prepared for a Primary Renovation project. Seismic Retrofit City Council passed the Earthquake Hazard Reduction Ordinance to establish mandatory standards for earthquake hazard reduction in wood-frame buildings with soft, weak, or open-front walls and existing non-ductile concrete buildings.
  • How much does retrofitting cost?
    Through the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) analysis, it is believed that these retrofits will cost between $60,000 and $130,000, depending on the building size. Book an inspection with us and get an accurate estimte. 310-890-3989
  • How long does retrofitting take?
    ~ 4 to 12 weeks On average a project can last from 4 to 12 weeks, after receiving a client's permits and plans, depending on the scope of work.
  • What is a soft-story wood-frame building?
    A soft or weak story floor, wood-frame building is a structure where the first story is substantially weaker and more flexible than the stories above due to lack of walls or frames at the first floor. Typically, these buildings contain large open areas for parking or commercial space such as restaurants or convenience stores on the first floor leaving the building highly vulnerable to damage in an earthquake.
  • What are the benefits of performing a seismic upgrade?
    Performing a seismic upgrade of a soft story building will reduce the risk of collapse during an earthquake. This will prevent more people and businesses from being displaced.

Follow Michelle Durey as she gives us a tour of this soft story retrofit project in North Hollywood and shows us how Zebra Construction was able to reduce the scope of work by submitting a new engineering plan!

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