A Bellevue engineer is studying the damage left behind after the recent Napa earthquake in an effort to learn more about how to protect buildings in Seattle.
As soon as he heard the news about the quake, Mark Pierepiekarz, president of MRP Engineering, headed to California to see it for himself.
He says there's no more revealing way to study what an earthquake does to old brick buildings, of which there are so many in Seattle.
Among his findings, that even buildings retrofitted to withstand the shaking sustained damage.
The upgrades did not make the buildings immune, but they helped.
"If they had not been (done) the damage would've been much, much worse," said Pierepiekarz.
Building owners in Napa are required to reinforce older brick properties. In Seattle it's voluntary, but the city is in the process of considering making it mandatory.
"We have a long ways to go, we have over a thousand unreinforced masonry buildings that house a lot of people and I think we need to act now with this and other reminders showing us what a danger these buildings are," said Pierepiekarz, who is now back in Seattle.
Pierepiekarz says he was also surprised to see how many bricks had shaken loose from the tops of buildings, raining down on sidewalks and streets.
He says that would present a major hazard in Seattle and demonstrates that even modern upgrade techniques don't always work.
One big reason why building upgrades aren't required here in Seattle is the cost.
It can run anywhere from $20 to $60 per square foot, and when you look at all the work that needs to be done, we're talking millions of dollars.