Earthquake Retrofitting: An Expert’s Historical Perspective of the Greater L.A. Area
By Dave Tourjé, President, Alpha Structural, Inc.
For Dave Tourjé, the founder of earthquake retrofitting firm, Alpha Structural, concern about earthquake and the need for seismic retrofitting, were not of grave concern as they are today. Dave started in the construction business by specializing in foundation repair of hillside homes, failing retaining walls, seismic retrofitting, and every other kind of structural repair for the hillside and structural problems he had dealt with as a Mount Washington local working in construction. Today, Tourjé reflects on the difference in the construction trade between the early days and now, “It was an unformed trade. There was no foundation repair. There was no consciousness of it, it wasn’t in the real estate community like it is now, it just wasn’t a known problem.”
Those early days were prior to the major earthquakes that would erupt in years later within the greater Los Angeles area and, as a result, Dave’s field of construction would be changed forever. In 1987, Los Angeles residents experienced the Whittier earthquake at a magnitude of 5.9. Just a few years later, in 1994, we saw the Northridge earthquake wreak devastating blows on infrastructure, homes and apartment buildings, and from that was born seismic retrofit codes for the first time in Los Angeles. Dave recalls the change in the structural industry that came as a result of that natural disaster. “It kept evolving where there were more earthquakes, more floods, more problems. Then that would make its way into the codes and into the consciousness of realtors… and the need just became more and more evident.”
Santa Monica was the first city within Southern California to establish aggressive regulations targeted toward wood-framed soft-story structures because of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Many other cities followed suit, with the City of Los Angeles issuing The Mandatory Retrofit Program under Ordinance 183893 in November of 2015. Attempting to stop history from repeating itself, these codes went into effect and were and still are mandatory for property owners to address. Once Los Angeles was waking up to the dangers of buildings not being structurally sound, Alpha Structural was standing ready to bring them up to current seismic code to structurally protect against future earthquakes.
Today, while every property that requires a retrofit is not yet complete, thousands of them have been structurally reinforced, brought up to code, and deemed safe per today’s standard. Alpha Structural is proud to have had a large hand in accomplishing that for thousands of properties all over Los Angeles and Orange County. With years of experience and technical expertise, Alpha Structural has been handling these soft-story retrofits for property owners from the early days through today, for 30 dedicated years. Doing so has served Los Angeles & Orange County apartment owners and managers with the peace of mind that comes with working with a quality contractor, and the certainty that their tenants and properties are safe should another major earthquake happen at a moment’s notice.
Alpha Structural is licensed to both engineer and construct every job they take on that comes through their doors – they are a “one-stop” shop, meaning the entire project is taken care of under one roof by in-house engineers, draftsmen, permit expeditors and then project supervisors and crews. This is a much-preferred method according to Alpha Structural’s clients, where the alternative is separate engineering firms and contractors which can add time and money when there are questions once construction starts. With everything under one roof, Alpha Structural delivers the perfect balance of customer service, technical expertise accompanied by decades of experience.
Today, Alpha Structural has grown from their small beginnings in the Mount Washington hills to being considered the trusted leader in structural engineering and construction serving Los Angeles and Orange County. They are proud to be an award-winning design/build firm, with honorable mentions such as the Inc. 5,000 Fastest Growing Company award multiple years in a row, a Los Angeles Business Journal “Fastest Growing Private Companies” award winner, as well as a winner of the “Best Contractor to Work for in Construction” award in 2021. Additionally, they have received countless recognitions from the Mayors of the cities they work in, such as Los Angeles, Pasadena, Rolling Hills Estates, South Pasadena, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Irvine, Yorba Linda, and more. They were honored as well with a recognition from the California State Assembly District 51 for their dedication to safeguarding the community through their work.
If you ask Dave, the key to Alpha Structural’s continued success is their motto of quality first. They strive to deliver more to their clients than they expect on every job and will continue that for the next 30 years to come.
Founded in 1992 by Owner and Chief Executive Officer Dave Tourjé, Alpha Structural Inc., got its start in the hills of Mount Washington, in the heart of Northeast Los Angeles. Today, Alpha Structural, Inc. is the leading structural engineering and construction firm based in Los Angeles and recently announced and celebrated its 30th year in business serving homeowners and commercial property owners alike in both Los Angeles and Orange County.