Worker using electric wheel grinding on steel structure in facto

Clark Rosales January 13, 2020

An Overview of Structural Retrofitting

What is structural retrofitting?

  1. It Has Different Strategies
  2. Its Objective Is to Optimize Public Safety
  3. It Has Different Classes
  4. Local Retrofitting Is Cost-Effective


Structural retrofitting is something you shouldn’t overlook. It’s part of the building’s construction that ensures that you have strong structural integrity. If you live in areas with strong seismic activities or if your building has experienced soil failure due to a recent earthquake, you should consider retrofitting as soon as possible.

There are different measures and techniques for various structures. Different ones will apply better to certain building types than others. Your engineer will be able to determine what kind of retrofitting you need. Before approaching your engineer, here’s an overview of structural retrofitting


It Has Different Strategies

Structural retrofitting sounds simple but there are tons of different strategies to consider before applying this enhancement. The different strategies allow retrofitting to adapt to various architectural designs to protect the building from structural damage. Reinforcing your structure will make sure, in case of any intense seismic activity, that all human life is protected. In the past few decades, there are many plans and strategies developed combined with advanced materials. Here are the different strategies you’ll encounter:

  • Addition of cross braces and new structural walls

The exact purpose of this strategy is to increase the overall strength capacity of the building. Adding cross braces adds stability that can withstand earthquakes and more.

  • Increase the strength of structural elements

For this strategy, it’s important to look at what your building currently has. Once you’ve determined what’s present, a cost-effective approached will be deployed. Structural ductility, strength, and stiffness are most commonly looked at for individual components.

Your engineer will most likely use these strategies when retrofitting. Be sure to inform him of any structural weaknesses to speed up the retrofitting process. Advanced planning is also cost-effective in the long run compared to repairs and re-construction of different areas.


Its Objective Is to Optimize Public Safety

Construction engineers discussion with architects at constructio

The entire objective of retrofitting is to ensure that you and your building occupants are safe. Besides fire safety regulations, unregulated building construction can put the general public in danger. As a building manager, it’s important to prioritize and make safety available to everyone. Engineering solutions used to be limited to economic and political considerations but now it’s much different. Performance-based Earthquake Engineering recognizes these objectives:

  • Protecting human life and public safety is the goal. The building’s structure should not collapse on your occupants or any passer-by. Your structure should be safely exited and entered without pressing any dangers.
  • The structure of your building should be useful and considered safe for occupation when such events happen. As much as possible, extensive repairs to the structure will be done before it’s passed off as unusable and unsafe.
  • If the primary structure remains undamaged and the utilities are still available, cosmetic repairs will be the priority. This applies to hospital retrofitting.
  • For historically and culturally significant structures, any retrofitting should not modify the cosmetics and the build.


It Has Different Classes

When it comes to structural retrofitting, there are different classes. It can be split into two. These two classes are global retrofitting and local retrofitting techniques. Each has a specific purpose to further strengthen an area or a wall. For global retrofitting, there are up to 8 techniques while local retrofitting has 4. Splitting these into 2 ensures easy identification. These classes are meant to simplify and organize how we look at structural retrofitting.


Global Retrofitting Is Modern

Hand over Construction plans with yellow helmet and drawing tool

Global Retrofitting means strengthening the entire structure all at once. Working the entire structure all at once improves strength, ductility, and stability. This is the modern method of structural retrofitting and it can involve a lot of advanced materials such as fiberglass blends and different alloys. However, the disadvantage is that this is much more expensive. If your structure is new, it might be better to use this method as it won’t hinder operations.

  • Shear Walls
  • Steel Bracings
  • Infill Walls
  • Wing Wall
  • Wall Thickening
  • Mass Reduction
  • Mass Dampers
  • Base Isolation


Local Retrofitting Is Cost-Effective

Local Retrofitting concentrates on adding strength to different sections of the structure. This is an old method of retrofitting but is a cost-effective option that still gets the job done. Local retrofitting has a disadvantage of slowing down different areas of your building. In most cases, however, these areas will be isolated and allowing for construction in local areas can keep entire operations running, albeit at a slower rate.

  • Beam Jacketing
  • Column Jacketing
  • Beam-Columns Joint Jacketing
  • Strengthening of Individual Footing


Key Takeaway

When it comes to building safety, structural retrofitting makes sure that your building is safe from intense seismic activity. Retrofitting your building ensures that your structure won’t collapse on the general public and your occupants.

It increases the strength, ductility, and durability of your building using different structural retrofitting techniques. If you’re unsure of the strength of your building against the elements, having it retrofitted is insurance in itself. Approach your engineer today and learn more about structural retrofitting.