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Civic Center receives quake monitoring equipment

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday August 14, 2001

The city’s newly remodeled Martin Luther King Civic Center Building is being fitted with monitoring equipment that will measure just how much the six-story building shakes, rattles and rolls during the next earthquake. 

“This will provide useful information to the (The United States Geological Survey); it will provide useful information to the entire earthquake design community and it will provide useful information to the city of Berkeley,” said Manager of Capital Projects John Rosenbrock. 

The USGS is currently installing a “motion accelerograph” system at the base of the building and in the ceiling of the fifth floor. The City Council unanimously approved the joint program between the city and the USGS on July 24. The city provides only for the wiring to connect the instruments and the USGS pays for the equipment, its installation and its maintenance. 

Rosenbrock said the city will be able to compare building movement to the anticipated displacement of the 74 state-of-the-art base isolators the Civic Center rests on. The isolators are designed to allow the building to sway up to 30 inches in any direction during an earthquake. The base of the building is surrounded by a moat that will allow the movement.  

The isolators were installed during the $38 million renovation that was completed in May. Public Works Director Rene Cardinaux said the isolators have been used to counteract bridge movement for many years, but they are still considered new technology in buildings. 

“No matter how well you design anything, there’s still a certain amount of theory involved,” Cardinaux said. “And you just can’t predict how the earth is going to move in an earthquake.” 

According to a July 24 report from the Department of Public Works, the monitoring equipment will be placed at the base of the buildings near the isolators and in the ceiling on the fifth floor. Rosenbrock said the information gathered from the fifth-floor monitors will be compared to information gathered at the base of the building. The difference in movement will help the evaluation of the base isolators’ efficiency. 

The information will be transmitted electronically to the USGS offices in Menlo Park where it will be recorded and analyzed. A viewing monitor will be available in the Civic Center lobby so the public can access the information as well.  

The seismic-monitoring equipment is expected to be operational no later then the end of September.