Merchants Exchange Building
San Francisco, CA
Standing 15 stories tall through two major earthquakes, San Francisco’s Merchants Exchange Building seems impervious to the test of time. But can it withstand another major earthquake?
The structure, built in 1903, comprises brick walls, a steel frame and concrete floors. In the mid-90s, Clint Reilly bought this vintage building with a gut feeling that the building was seismically safe and durable. He contacted Holmes Culley to conduct a thorough assessment to determine if his instinct was correct. Mr. Reilly was an engaged client, wanting to learn the process and each step Holmes Culley took in assessing the building. The Holmes Culley team first needed to discover how the building was built. They needed the original drawings. After searching through dozens of old boxes in the building’s basement, they found what they were looking for stashed away in a corner.
The next step was to investigate the structure and complete materials testing. After discussing building analysis options, Mr. Reilly agreed with the recommendation to move forward using performance-based engineering. This process involved modeling the building’s response to past earthquakes and using that model to predict its future performance. Finally, Holmes Culley performed a loss modeling exercise. The analysis provided options for future damage and specifics on replacement materials and cost.
The analysis concluded that the building has a very high level of earthquake resistance for a structure of this vintage. A large factor in this resistance is the presence of concrete floors and a steel frame to support vertical gravity loads. All of the information pointed in one direction for the client: The Merchants Exchange Building was indeed a very wise investment.
Photographer: Blake Marvin
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