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Phased Seismic Upgrades – Information

Read about some frequently asked questions and clarifications on phased seismic upgrades.
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The following are some frequently asked questions and clarifications requested on the phased seismic strengthening or upgrades of existing buildings.

Can Seismic strengthening or upgrades be phased over several years?

In accordance with section 24.85.070, The Director at his or her discretion may approve a multi-year phased program of seismic improvements when the improvements are pre-designed, and an improvement/implementation plan is approved by the Director. Approval of request for phasing of seismic improvements is not guaranteed.

The maximum total time allowed for completion of phased improvements under section 24.85.070 is ten years.However, based on several factors such as use and occupancy of the building, critical risk to life safety etc., it may be necessary to require completion of the strengthening work over a shorter time frame. In addition, strengthening of certain critical elements (such as the attachment of exterior walls in URM buildings to floor/roof diaphragms when there are no existing connections) may not be deferred, unless a compelling and extenuating circumstances are present.

What is the process for requesting a permit for a phased seismic upgrade?

To request phasing of seismic upgrades, the owner or his/her designee must contact the Structural Engineering supervisor or structural plan reviewer at BDS with a plan that clearly identifies how many phases are proposed, the scope of work under each phase, a specific date of completion of each phase and a reason for why phasing of the work is being requested. In general, mandatory seismic upgrade may not be phased or deferred for economic reasons unless agreed to by the Director.  

It is strongly preferred that any request or proposal for phasing a seismic upgrade be discussed and the proposal be approved prior to submitting for a permit. We recommend that the owner and design team schedule a Preliminary Life Safety Meeting with city staff including staff from structural plan review to discuss this option. Additional details for the Preliminary Life Safety meeting can be found here.

Requesting phasing of the seismic upgrade after a permit has been applied for could add significant complexity and time to process the permit.  The detailed design of the seismic upgrade/ strengthening is not required at this time, but the general concepts and phasing plans and timelines should be submitted with the proposal.

The structural engineering section will work with the  owner or his/her designee on the proposal to come to an agreement on the   phasing of the seismic upgrade/strengthening including the scope of work in each phase, time lines for completion of each phase. The plan reviewer will present the proposal to the Bureau Director for preliminary approval. Once the Director gives a preliminary approval, the owner or his/her designee can proceed in developing plans for permit submittal.  

What is the process for review and approval of a phased seismic upgrade?  

Once plans are ready for permit submittal and review (see previous question for requesting a Phased seismic upgrade pre-approval) please contact Permitting Services for submitting plans. Once plans are submitted, Permitting Services will set up a main permit for the entire work along with partial permits for each phase of the seismic upgrade work. 

Plan Submittal requirements

In addition to other submittal requirements for a typical permit such as minimum submittal requirements, the structural design and submittal shall meet the following minimum requirements:

  • The entire seismic upgrade shall be designed and detailed to meet the standard and code in effect at the time of application submittal (unless at different standard has been mutually agreed to by the City and the applicant
  • The structural drawings shall very clearly demarcate, on the plans and details, which aspect of the design belongs to what phase of the phased seismic agreement. The notation on plans and details shall be very clear so that the inspector can clearly verify and inspect accordingly.
  • When submitting for permit, include a brief written description for the entire project and separately a description of work for each of the phases, total cost/valuation for the entire project and the cost breakdown associated with the seismic work for each of the phases along with the application for permit.

Structural review:  The plans will be reviewed for conformance to current code/standard under Title 24.85 unless a different code or standard has been agreed to. The structural plan reviewer will also work with the applicant to draft a legal agreement called the “Phased seismic Agreement” between the building owner and the City of Portland outlining the phased seismic improvements. This document will need to be signed and notarized first by the building owners and then by the Bureau’s Director. It then needs to be recorded with the property deed at the County.

 A copy of this document is required to be submitted before structural plan review is approved.

Once all reviews are completed, and the legal agreement recorded a partial permit ( with a suffix -STR-01 --- see question 12(g) below)  will be issued that includes in its scope the first phase of the seismic upgrade and all other work required by other reviews including life safety, Fire etc.

Are there additional fees associated with Phased seismic agreement?

Yes. In addition to typical fees associated with a permit BDS charges a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) fees.  for the periods between the initial and final phases or work. The fee will be paid on an annual basis and extended as necessary to cover the period of the agreement.

The Temporary Certificate of Occupancy – Associated with Phased Seismic Agreement fee will be equal to one half of the monthly Temporary Certificate of Occupancy and may have a duration of no less than one month, and no greater than 12 months.” Please see the fee schedule for the amount of fees.

Does BDS waive or reduce certain fees associated with seismic upgrades?

Yes, Per Title 24.85 the applicant is entitled to fee reduction for fees associated with building permit, plan review and fire life safety review fees for structural work related to seismic strengthening. The fee will be waived when such fees total less than $2,500 and reduced by 50 percent when such fees would total $2,500 or more. Only the three types of fees listed above calculated based on only the scope of work related to seismic strengthening are reduced or waive. This is the reason the applicant is asked to submit costs associated with seismic strengthening scope of work so appropriate adjustments to the fee can be made.

How are phases of the phased seismic upgrade processed and what are the permit submittal requirements for later phases? 

For permits that include phased seismic agreements, BDS initially sets up several permits in the permitting system software. A main permit that encompasses the entire scope of work (example permit number could be 21-123456-000-CO), and partial permits for each phase of the work(for example if there a three phases as part of the seismic upgrade the partial  permits corresponding to the main permit will be 21-123456-STR-01-CO, 21-123456-STR-02-CO 21-123456-STR-03-CO.) . Once the reviews for the permit are done BDS will issue only a partial permit (in the above example that will be 21-123456-STR-01-CO) that includes in its scope the first phase of the seismic upgrade and all other work required by other reviews including life safety, Fire etc. All other permits including the main permit (21-123456-CO in this example) will be left open and under “Application” status. The applicant is required to complete all the work within the scope of the STR-01 permit with the timeframes stipulated in the Phased seismic agreement

When the applicant is ready to proceed with the next phase or phases of the Phased Seismic Agreement,( STR-02, STR-03 etc.)  but before the agreed to time within the Phased Seismic agreement for that phase, the applicant should submit for permit to proceed with that phase of the seismic agreement.  A copy of the previously approved structural drawings highlighting the work to be completed in the phase that the application is for and as previously agreed to along with the application form is required.   

 The structural reviewer will verify that the proposed work matches the previously approved phasing and approve the structural review. If the work proposed defers, then the structural reviewer will conduct a full review and charge appropriate structural review fees. Once the permit for that phase is issued, the inspector will inspect to the approved plans and scope of work for that specific partial permit. Once final inspections are completed, he/she will final the partial permit. If the partial permit is for the final phase of the phased agreement, he/she will also final the main permit at the same time.

Can voluntary seismic upgrades be phased under a Phased Seismic Agreement?

Since the owner has the ability to decide on the scope of work for a voluntary seismic strengthening, typically voluntary seismic strengthening does not require a Phased Seismic Agreement. The owner can submit for and obtain separate permits each time they are ready to implement a “phase” of the seismic strengthening subject to conditions listed in section 24.85.065 of the Chapter 24.85 of COP Title 24.

However, it is possible at the owner’s discretion, to enter into a Phased Seismic Agreement to obtain approval for the entire pre-designed seismic improvement plan but phase the improvements over a period of time. See questions above about requirements around phasing of seismic upgrades and Phased Seismic Agreements. It should be noted that once entered into the Phased Seismic Agreement, the owner will be obligated to complete the phases of the “voluntary” upgrade in accordance with the schedule in the “Phased Seismic Agreement.”

We strongly recommend that the owner and design team schedule a Preliminary Life Safety Meeting with city staff including staff from structural plan review to discuss this option. Additional details for the Preliminary Life Safety meeting can be found here.