Foundation and Structural Retrofits: Gentrifying Los Angeles


Gentrifying Los AngelesHave you noticed a gentrifying Los Angeles? Over the last decade or two much of Los Angeles’ downtown has been gentrified. Gentrifying, sometimes referred to as upscaling, can be defined as taking older properties and improving and renovating them so that they appeal to a broader range of potential renters or buyers. Gentrification can apply to many kinds of property. Often when a neighborhood begins to gentrify for residential use, commercial properties also upscale to meet the demand of the new tenant demographics. These projects are often use “outside the box” design to take full advantage of existing properties.

Over the last several years, Helfrich-Associates has been working on several of these types of projects in the Los Angeles area. Our projects often take the form of properties that are being converted to commercial housing. The properties we see typically need to have foundation and structural retrofits completed. These types of retrofits are often required because of the strict regulations set in place by Los Angeles to protect against seismic forces should the area be hit with a major earthquake.

Gentrifying Los Angeles

Our foundation or structural retrofit process typically begins with an initial assessment. Our team of geologists and soils engineers will first assess the site and determine the seismic design parameters and subsurface conditions for use by our structural engineers.

Our team then inspects the property to find out what needs to be done to bring it in to compliance. After our initial assessment, we will present a recommendation for the retrofit work. As part of the recommendation we’ll also provide a preliminary budget for construction.

As materials technologies improve so do our strategy options for projects, especially those involving gentrifying Los Angeles. Materials such as high-strength steel, fiber-reinforced polymers and pre-manufactured structural components have made a huge difference in the way retrofits are completed.

There are several seismic retrofit options, that improve ductility and strength, while maintaining the original building design.  One common technique for achieving these strategies is FRP jacketing. Fiber-reinforced polymer, or FRP, jacketing is when we encase connected ends of materials in a reinforced epoxy or polymer substance. Fiber-reinforced steel can also be used. Several types of shear walls (steel moment frames, wood panels, concrete, and masonry) can also be used to provide the required seismic resistance.

Because we’ve had multiple types of engineers (soils, civil, and structural) on staff for many years, we’ve become extremely knowledgeable in building code practices, as we have worked on these types of projects for over 20 years. That means we have the experience and ability to complete a project to the owner’s liking while complying to all building code standards.

We work with the LA City Building Department to ensure that we perform retrofit projects to the correct specifications. In addition, we often meet with plan check engineers to determine cost-effective methods of satisfying the intent of the building code.

Is your L.A. neighborhood gentrifying? Are you retrofitting your property as a result? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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