Work Underway to Increase Earthquake Safety

I would like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on the work that is being done at International House to significantly improve safety in the event of a major earthquake. As you may know, International House is just 100 feet away from the Hayward Fault which actually runs through California Memorial Stadium. Experts predict an 80% chance of a major earthquake on the Hayward fault within the next 20 years.

In recent years, the Loma Prieta, Northridge, and Kobe earthquakes provided new knowledge on what happens to structures that are very close to a fault. In a thorough evaluation of our building, we learned that two major improvements are crucial.

First, strengthening walls in resident rooms and anchoring them to the structure will minimize the chances of those walls collapsing in a major earthquake. And second, encapsulating the hollow clay tiles in the walls is necessary to help prevent tiles from penetrating the walls in a way that could endanger safety.

The Board of Directors and I agreed on the importance of completing this project as soon as possible. In the first phase of work, which was begun last summer, several aspects of this project were completed including:

  • Encapsulation and anchoring of walls in the corridors in all resident areas.
  • Encapsulation of walls in 70 resident rooms and anchoring walls to the structure.
  • Removal or encapsulation of hollow tiles in exit ways on floors two through eight and strength-ening of these areas to enhance exit safety in the event of a major earthquake.

On the financial front, funding of one million dollars for this initial phase came from institutional reserves and $500,000 in capital set asides from the operating budget. You may recall that other major renovation projects were supported by 1.7 million dollars raised for building renovation during the capital campaign completed in 1996.

The costs for renovating the remaining rooms for seismic safety is approximately $6,300 per room, a total of $2.5 to 2.6 million dollars over the next three years. Approximately 1.6 million dollars from House reserves and capital set asides from the operating budget is available, leaving $1 million dollars to be raised.

Corporations, foundations, and individuals are being approached for support. To date we have received generous contributions from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, George and Mary Foster, McBean Family Foundation, Union Bank of California Foundation and Bishara Lawrence. Our goal is to raise the remaining $800,000 by December 31, 1999.

I welcome your advice on contacts with those who might be supportive of this effort. Many thanks in advance for giving this matter your serious consideration.

This effort is imperative to the future safety of International House residents. If the House is going to continue to serve as a laboratory for promoting international understanding, then our highest priority must be strengthening and preserving this magnificent building which provides the core infrastructure for all that we do.

Joseph Lurie
Executive Director

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