Reno's Unreinforced Structures Pose Quake Hazard

Apr 19, 2016

Credit GavIn Treadgold, Flickr, (CC by SA-2.0)

The quaint brick buildings that define Reno's early architectural era pose a significant risk in the event of a big earthquake, which scientists warn could happen sooner than later. 

There are an estimated 1,400 un-reinforced masonry buildings in the Reno-Carson area. That's a type of construction used in the old days with bricks or stone but without any rebar.

According to research geologist Craig DePolo, that's a problem.

"In the United States, we've had during strong earthquakes about 30-40 percent of these buildings have partial to total collapse."

DePolo and other geologists spoke during an earthquake economic resiliency forum in Reno this week, warning of the potential hazard these structures pose to our region. 

The state and some other large institutions have been retrofitting older structures in recent years. DePolo says it would be ideal if an even larger inventory were done...

"But realistically, it's difficult, and what we need to do is begin a community conversation on these buildings. Who owns them, what's their purpose and what could we do to make them safer?"

He says Carson City has begun this work as have other earthquake prone places like Napa, California.