At the close of the 2017-2018 legislative session, the Washington State Legislature directed the Department of Commerce , in cooperation with the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP), to initiate an inventory of unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings in Washington state, excluding single-family housing. Commerce and DAHP convened a 28-member advisory committee and contracted for a seismic study of unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings. This undertaking included inventorying and categorizing the URM building locations, attributes (e.g., building use, historic character), and vacancy or underutilization using existing data sets and surveys to the greatest extent possible.
This study’s data collection effort yielded a database with a total of 15,200 buildings, of which:
- 3,137 were identified as suspected URM buildings;
- 1,176 were confirmed URM buildings; and,
- 2,241 building have an “unknown” URM building status, meaning that they could not be expressly ruled out as potential URM buildings.
Of the buildings confirmed to be URM:
- 170 are emergency facilities, including hospitals and fire stations; and
- 219 are school facilities
This study’s findings are not inclusive or representative of all buildings in Washington; they merely reflect existing survey and data resources that could be incorporated into the project’s database. They are not a substitute for site-specific investigations assessing whether a structure is a confirmed URM building.
Next Steps for the Inventory
The work to identify, catalog and ultimately remediate the state’s URM buildings will continue to be a priority for state government, local governments and the private sector. This project provides the solid foundation upon which additional work can build.
Commerce recommends that the survey materials to identify and validate URM buildings developed during this project be shared with stakeholders – including certified local governments, Main Street communities, state and local emergency managers, and county assessors. Additional data can be added to the URM building database should the Legislature seek to continue or expand this effort. Through an iterative process, the robust tools developed during this project can increase the reach and capacity of the URM building database, which can guide the development of effective mitigation strategies.
Identifying URM Buildings
Commerce collaborated with Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management to develop this video on how to identify if a building is an URM building. Commerce encourages the distribution of this video and the survey materials developed during this study.
In the News...
KIRO 7 News, Seattle and the Greater South Sound
“New Database Shows Buildings that May Crumble in an Earthquake”
Washington State Governor’s Office
“Database Shows Buildings that Could Pose Safety Risk During Earthquakes”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
“Nearly 4,500 Brick Buildings In Washington Could Be Dangerous In A Quake, Report Says”
“New Interactive Database Shows 727 Buildings in Spokane Could Pose Safety Risks During an Earthquake”
“4,500 Washington Buildings Potentially at Risk of Crumbling During Earthquake New Report Says”
Bellingham Herald, Whatcom County
“Hundreds of Buildings in Whatcom County Land on State Earthquake List”