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Safe enough to stay: The Washington County Public Services Building

by | May 31, 2017 0 Architecture, Innovations

Last month, construction began on the seismic retrofit and building upgrade of the Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building (PSB) for Washington County. The kickoff comes after more than a year of design and staff transition space preparation, and will address the county’s desire to provide a building that is ‘safe enough to stay’ following a 500-year type seismic event. It will also will also mitigate a water intrusion issue that has plagued the building’s north wing since its 1990 construction.

The PSB houses Land Use and Transportation, Health and Human Services, Assessment and Taxation, and the County’s Board and Administrative and Support Departments, in addition to receiving hundreds of constituents a day.

In anticipation of the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, the Oregon Resilience Plan creates a path of policy and investment priorities for the State of Oregon over the next fifty years. Download the plan (13.5 MB)

To solve the technical issue of the seismic performance, SERA collaborated with KPFF Consulting Engineers to design the structural system and identify performance criteria for retrofitting the non-structural building elements. Ultimately, the team chose an articulated architectural concrete exterior shear wall placed on the corners of the wings, which tie into under slab steel drag struts on each floor along with reinforced collar ties at each interior column. This system essentially replaces the existing steel brace frames and weak column connections with a new structural system.

Many liken it to the corner packaging and strapping that protect an appliance during shipping.

At the onset of the project – as with all seismic upgrade projects – the design team explained the different structural scenarios and compared costs and risks using a graphic which helps to translate the engineering ‘speak.’ There is a lot of misconception about what a ‘code compliant’ building provides, and it is our job to educate Pacific Northwest clients about how even small steps can improve a building’s seismic performance. The graphic helps with construction savvy clients, conveying performance to others is more difficult. ‘Safe Enough to Stay’ became the team’s mantra as we presented to other stakeholders, like the staff who work in the building.

Construction on the PSB should take about two years, with a short pause in the middle for moving staff between wings.

Stay tuned for more project insights, including the design approach, and our Integrated Project Delivery method!

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