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Subject: Re: Seismic anchoring requirements
From: John Guthrie <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 29 Oct 2003 11:34:43 -0800

text/plain (155 lines)

        Once again Hugh is on track about the confusion between agencies. We
will see what the code guys have to say. Bill Benedon also has shared some
of his experiences with earthquake issues which provided some good first
hand information. We are fortunate that at the moment we are not required to
hire union shops to do the work, though I'm sure the local labor
organizations would love to require it.
        At this point I suppose I should elaborate a bit about our facility,
we are not a large facility, about 15,000 cu.ft. at the moment. We are
located in a former manufacturing plant (the original HobieCat facility, for
those who know about catamaran boats), actually we are in the area where the
sails were made. Our ceiling is only 10' so, allowing for 18" distance from
the sprinkler heads, we can only have 88" shelving, most inefficient but it
is what we are stuck with. The shelves are anchored with 2" x 3/4" expansion
bolts and angle brackets with sway braces across the back and sides of each
unit, there is no bracing at the top between unit sections. About 1/2 of the
units are constructed with clips (bolted top, bottom and middle with shelves
sharing common uprights on connecting units with the other half of the units
being constructed with four corner posts for each unit, with shared sway
bracing on sides and backs, the top, middle, and bottom shelves are
gusseted. All units are back-to-back except for the units on the perimeter.
We have not mixed the assembly methods in unit sections, the construction
types are in the different shelving sections installed over a period of 12
So, the real question we are working with is which is better, and is there
justification for the expense for conversion of all of our units to the same
construction, and if so, which might be most cost effective.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hugh Smith [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2003 10:06 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Seismic anchoring requirements

On Wednesday, October 29, 2003, at 12:01 AM, Automatic digest processor

> Date:    Tue, 28 Oct 2003 15:28:01 -0800
> From:    John Guthrie <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Seismic anchoring requirements
> We have been researching requirements for the seismic bracing for our
> existing shelving units and would like to pick the brains of the list
> members.

> We have been told that some of our units assembled with bolts and
> nuts are too rigid and in the case of an earthquake would be more
> likely to
> fail than our units assembled with clips. We utilize Western Pacific
> steel
> shelving that is anchored to the floor with expansion bolts and angle
> bracing and have sway bracing installed on each unit.
> We are looking for any standards that would provide information for
> seismic
> bracing and best practices for shelving construction and installation

Don't pick too much, the ARMA Conference crushed most of what I had
left and Ginny Jones fact filled presentation on records protection
standards overloaded the circuits on what was left.

Also I want absolution from the City of Oceanside before you read one
word further for all future FIRELOCK Vaults in your city limits.

We do a lot of vault work in California and we run into the same
requirements over and over but in every locale they throw in their own
"gotchas" to make life thrilling at the best and fraught with peril at

We are required to have any plan stamped for Zone IV Seismic so this
requires an engineer to review the plans on the shelving and the vault.
Since the shock-waves cause a 10,000 miles per hour flex in the
structural components,  this put strain on everything. It is critical
to use expansion anchors on the floor that keep everything in place. We
are required to use a minimum of 2" anchors but as you get taller, then
the requirements change. Also is your floor strong enough to handle
250,000 pounds of boxes or 100,000 etc wanting to jump forward with
only the floor as the brace. The PSI Strength of the floor is critical
here. (pounds per square inch)

Some entities want the shelving braced to the vault  and some want it
independent. (or braced to the structure in a warehouse) But it is
critical to determine if what you are bracing  "to"  provides what you
need. If the building you are in was not designed for seismic load and
you anchor your shelving to it, you could cause a roof collapse or at
the minimum leaks and structural damage to the roof that could create
huge problems.

Another problem we have run into is that everything is approved and
when you show up, someone comes in and does an inspection and declares
the floor is not adequate for the load. Load is one thing, load in a
seismic condition is another.

How someone in building inspection can tell you that they approved your
shelving plan based on the weight of the shelving but if you want to
put boxes on the shelves then that is another kettle if fish is beyond
me.  We were in mid vault installation and was told the slab was now
determined to be not strong enough. The floor had to be penetrated to
put concrete piers in to sit under the columns that supported the vault
roof. But we referred to our plans showing the load capacity of the
vault and we were well within spec. But they decided we might want to
store on top of the vault. (Which was not possible as the client wanted
their media in a vault not sitting on top of it!) so here come the

So the answer is never do anything with an engineer from California
preferably from within Oceanside or someone who is familiar with who
does you "plan check."  This is always a surprise in California, they
farm the plan check out to a firm from San Diego even though you are
located in some other city. The San Diego plan checker will use the
harshest criteria of anywhere in the state.

If you could submit plans for a preliminary review a lot of this could
be worked through but they do not check your plans until right before
you start building which creates lots of problems.

Also as the RM under NFPA 232 you are the "Responsible Party" so you
get to select the fire protection engineer which is necessary before
you go one step farther. This gives you infinite power as you move
ahead. No shelving should be installed until the sprinkler system is
reviewed and certified to be able to handle the fuel load you are
getting ready to put in the building.

I love watching California Cities do their records centers and vaults
because they get caught in their own administrative nightmares.  Ha Ha
Ha Ha! Oh wait that is not very sensitive of me.  Just kidding John.

But as Sun Tzu said "Forewarned is Forearmed"

Also try not to weld anything........certified welders, deputy
inspectors, xraying welds, destructive testing to failure.....Oh for
the Love of Mercy Don't get me started!!

Best of Luck.


(18 years of California Vault designs, hundred of earthquakes, scores
of vaults, one at epicenter of a 6.9 and not one failure, not even one
repair but some plan checker in San Diego with a community college
education is going to tell me how to do a weld.......wait am I still
online???????  As Roseanna Anna Danna said " Never mind!" )

Hugh Smith
FIRELOCK Fireproof Modular Vaults
hsmith @[log in to unmask]
(610)  756-4440    Fax (610)  756-4134

List archives at
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