San Francisco skyscraper wired to measure tremors could lead to improved seismic codes

June 04, 2012 |
Lynne Simnick

Earthquakes measured in a San Francisco skyscraper may provide advances in science and lead to better seismic codes. The structure, equipped with the densest network of seismic monitoring instruments ever installed in an American high-rise, will measure tremors that even small Bay Area earthquakes can cause.

The California Geological Survey and their federal colleagues have completed the installation of 72 accelerographs on the 64-story residential tower, and expect to get unprecedented seismic data from them. The tower's 641-foot summit is designed to sway up to 3 feet in a quake, and the seismic instruments inside are so precise that they will measure that motion to within a thousandth of an inch. The instruments will also measure the building’s vertical motion as it rides up and down on an earthquake’s tides.

“What we would expect to see in a significant earthquake would be really interesting and it would help improve safety standards for future high-rise buildings,” said a state seismic agency official. The agency wants to install similar instruments on structures around the state. When a significant quake, roughly of magnitude 3 or more, strikes the Bay Area, readings would be transmitted instantly to state and federal scientists and engineers to be analyzed in detail and retained for writers of building codes and the designers of future tall buildings.


NOTE:This information is the opinion of the author/blogger and not the official position of IAPMO.

Lynne Simnick | Codes and Standards

Lynne Simnick is the Director of Code Development for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and is responsible for the supervision and oversight of the creation and maintenance of all IAPMO codes and code supporting documents. Ms. Simnick has more than twenty-eight years experience in the plumbing industry including code development, education and training, plan review and evaluation services. Prior to joining IAPMO, Simnick worked as technical staff in engineering services, educator, inspector and plumber. She has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Education and Mechanical Engineering Technology. Simnick has authored many technical articles, participated in numerous standards committees with an expertise in code and standards development.

Ms. Simnick may be contacted at IAPMO, 909-472-4110 or email

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