Re-Assessing the New York City Seismic Design Building Code

Zoya Susan Benyaminov, Merins Sadiku, Mishka Stueber


This paper addresses the need for reassessment and revision of the New York City Seismic Design Building Code to include reinforcing existing structures that were built before 1995. Although earthquakes in New York City are rare, the combination of its geology and pedology allow for little damping and the lack of adequate reinforcement in existing structures have the potential to amplify the consequences of otherwise small events. The NYC Building Code of 1995 requires new structures to be designed against seismic activity, but does not require the addition of seismic reinforcement for existing buildings.  In an effort to fill this gap, a case study of Brooklyn Brownstones is presented, illustrating the concern for unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings and describing the cultural and economic implications of reassessment. This case study, in combination with a literature review and commentary, supports the need for an updated seismic building code. Reassessment will not only preserve culturally significant structures like the Brooklyn Brownstone, but also provide standards for a more resilient infrastructure that will keep New York City operating through greater magnitude events.

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