Unreinforced Masonry Buildings (URM) List

Learn more about a list of URM buildings in Portland, how it was developed and updated, and its limitations.

The City of Portland’s Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Building List contains information on buildings located in the City that are known or presumed to be of unreinforced masonry construction.

The list is no longer maintained in a searchable database on this website but is available through a public records request. To request the complete URM building list, please click here, then select “Development Services records.” Sign in or create an account (if you do not already have one) to help track your records request.

If you have a question about whether a specific building or parcel is on the list, please send your question to BDS.URMBuildings@portlandoregon.gov. We will process your request as quickly as we can.


The unreinforced masonry building list was originally compiled in the 1990s when the City undertook a study to create a list of commercial-use buildings. City personnel, in collaboration with Portland State University, conducted building surveys based on procedures outlined in the first edition of Applied Technology Council’s (ATC) document ATC-21. The surveys were based on site visits and visual observations of a building’s exterior, a review of available building records, and the building’s permit history. The list has existed since 1995.

Between 2014 and 2016, City personnel undertook a project to update and validate the list. That work included using GIS mapping tools, Google Maps, permit records, building owner surveys and site visits. Updates were also made to reflect work performed since 1995 such as permitted seismic retrofits and demolitions. The list continues to be periodically updated as new information becomes available.

It was not feasible to collect all information on every building subjected to these studies. Building records and permit history were not available or complete for every building. Visual observations were limited to building exteriors. Structural systems and materials were sometimes obscured by building finishes or adjacent structures.

The presence of a building on the list is not a singular predictor of its performance in a seismic event. Other factors can contribute to building damage, such as magnitude and location of seismic event, local foundation soils, building shape, building design, construction quality, and whether a building has been structurally modified. A structural evaluation by a licensed professional engineer is recommended when necessary to ascertain the expected performance of a building in a seismic event.

Some buildings in the list may have more than a single address associated with it or addresses other than that presented in the list.

Limitations of the unreinforced masonry building list

The accuracy of information contained within the list should be considered commensurate with the methods used to develop and update the list. While there are inherent limitations in classifying a building as an unreinforced masonry building without the ability to observe building interiors, remove finishes, perform invasive inspections or expose structural systems and materials, the City believes available data support each building’s inclusion in the list. Despite that, the City of Portland makes no guarantees, expressed or implied, with regard to the list’s accuracy.

Publication or distribution of the list should include the information and discussion of limitations contained herein.

Classifications used in the unreinforced masonry (URM) building list

Buildings in the unreinforced masonry building list were classified according to the extent of seismic retrofit documented in permit records and a building’s use. Descriptions of the seismic retrofit classifications are as follows:

Fully retrofitted unreinforced masonry building

An unreinforced masonry building that was evaluated and/or retrofitted to meet or exceed all the requirements for the Life Safety structural performance level of the following standards: FEMA 178, 1992 edition or later, and as modified by Portland City Code (PCC) 24.85 (1995); FEMA 310, 1998 edition; FEMA 356, 2000 edition or later; ASCE 31; ASCE 41-03, ASCE 41-13 (as modified by PCC 24.85); ASCE 41-17; or Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC), 1993 edition or later.

Partially retrofitted unreinforced masonry building

An unreinforced masonry building that was retrofitted to  the requirements of an earlier edition of the OSSC, or other standards described above (generally includes retrofits completed before 1995), is considered to be a partially retrofitted building. In addition,   an  unreinforced masonry building that was retrofitted to meet some, but not all, of the requirements for the Life Safety structural performance level of the standards described above for fully retrofitted unreinforced masonry buildings is also considered to be partially retrofitted.  Examples include:

  1. An unreinforced masonry building that was retrofitted to meet the requirements of the 1988 edition of the OSSC because it was retrofitted to an edition of the OSSC prior to the 1993 edition, and
  2. An unreinforced masonry building that was retrofitted to brace parapets and attach exterior unreinforced masonry walls to the roof in accordance with one of the standards noted above for fully retrofitted unreinforced masonry buildings, but had other deficiencies that were not addressed.

Seismic retrofit standards were first adopted by the City of Portland in 1995. Amendments to standards in effect at the time, FEMA 178 (1992) and OSSC (1993), incorporated new understandings of seismic risks in the region. The 1993 OSSC underwent a major update which resulted in a significant increase in requirements for seismic design loads compared to previous editions of the OSSC and adopted other significant structural detailing requirements. For these reasons, retrofits to standards before 1995 are considered partial retrofits.

Un-retrofitted unreinforced masonry building

An unreinforced masonry building that has not undergone any seismic retrofit work or the retrofit was not designed to meet the requirements of any national or state building or seismic retrofit standard.

Definitions of the building use classifications

Definitions of the building use classifications, as described in the URM Policy Committee Report dated December 2017 and included in the URM building list, are as follows:

  • URM Class 1: Buildings categorized in this class are unreinforced masonry buildings that are considered critical structures and essential facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, power generating stations, and water treatment plants.
  • URM Class 2: Buildings categorized in this class are unreinforced masonry buildings that include schools and other high-occupancy structures listed as Risk Category III buildings in the Oregon Structural Specialty Code such as churches and theaters.
  • URM Class 3: Buildings categorized in this class includes all unreinforced masonry buildings not classified as URM Class 1, 2 or 4 buildings
  • URM Class 4: Buildings categorized in this class are low-occupancy unreinforced masonry buildings. This category includes one- and two-story unreinforced masonry build­ings with relatively low numbers of occupants (usually under 10), such as single-story auto garages.

Requests to remove or reclassify a building on the unreinforced masonry building list

A building owner who believes their building has been incorrectly included on the unreinforced masonry building list or misclassified may request a review of the determination. The process for making such a request is to submit a written request to Portland Permitting & Development. Requests must include a description of the basis upon which the owner believes the determination is incorrect and substantiating evidence. Such evidence usually includes:

  1. An evaluation of the building prepared by a registered structural engineer. Such evaluations typically include a review of permit records and approved plans, visual surveys, and confirmation of interpretations based on comprehensive field investigations and other evidence.
  2. A written report stamped by a registered structural engineer describing the scope of evaluation, methods, results and conclusions. Records of permits, plans, data, photos, observations and other substantiating information must be included.
  3. Evidence other than that contained in an engineering report may be considered on a case-by-case basis as a means to document lack of unreinforced masonry bearing walls. For example, such documentation might include building plans in possession of the owner that confirm the construction type or photos based on comprehensive field investigations of all potential walls in the building.

This written request should be emailed to Portland Permitting & Development (bds.urmbuildings@portlandoregon.gov) or by U.S. mail to: Portland Permitting & Development, Attention: Supervising Structural Engineer, 1900 SW 4th Ave Suite 5000, Portland, OR 97201. There is no fee associated with the initial written request.

Structural engineering personnel with Portland Permitting & Development will review the report and substantiating evidence and make one of the determinations, as follows:

  1. Confirm a determination the building is/is not classified as an unreinforced masonry building, or
  2. Request additional information and/or clarification necessary to make a determination.

The owner will then be notified of the determination.

Appealing a determination

A building owner who disagrees with a decision resulting from a request to review or reclassify, as described above, may appeal the decision to Portland Permitting & Development's Administrative Appeals Board and, if desired, subsequently to the City’s Building Code Board of Appeals.
This process requires a fee which may be refunded if the final determination from the Administrative Appeals Board or Building Code Board of Appeal is that the building was incorrectly classified as an unreinforced masonry building. More information about the appeal process can be found here.