Seismic activity is extremely common in some parts of the United States, especially on the west coast. Earthquakes occur at various strengths. Some can ruin houses and detached garages. It can be upsetting to invest so much money and time into getting a detached garage to then have it destroyed by an earthquake. At Behm Design, we offer a braced wall construction feature in our garage plans to help garages survive an earthquake. Here is some information about earthquakes and building codes, and the braced wall construction concept.

Seismic Risk and Building

In the United States, areas are given a letter designation to indicate earthquake risk level. These letter categories are A, B, C, D, and E. Almost all the garage plans available at Behm Design can be constructed in A, B, and C risk areas. A few of the larger plans only work in A and B areas due to size. If you are in an area that is a D1 or D2 risk, call Behm Designs. There is a possibility that plans can be adjusted to meet the requirements of the higher risk areas. Before building a detached garage, it is important to contact your local building department. Then you can find out what the seismic risk level is for your area.

Braced Wall Construction

When it comes to building, the IRC (International Residential Code) provides the basis for building in the United States, except in Florida and California. The IRC promotes safe and strong structures that are meant to withstand forces from earthquakes and wind. This is called “braced wall construction”. All Behm Design garage plans comply with the braced wall construction method using light wood frames and exterior wall sheathing. The braced walls are then anchor-bolted to the foundation. This prescriptive approach allows designers and builders to comply with earthquake and wind requirements without needing further services from engineers or architects. But there are limits. In reference to the above-mentioned categories, most Behm Design plans comply with levels A, B, and C and some can be adjusted to D2. However, some of the D levels and all E levels cannot be prescriptive and require that plans be plans certified by a state-licensed professional engineer or architect.

When it comes to constructing a detached garage, it can get tricky due to building codes in relation to seismic risk. If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, it is very important to contact the local building department to discuss seismic risk before ordering garage plans. Also, contact Behm Designs to learn more about our garage features, compliance with IRC, and how we can help you to get garage plans that can withstand an earthquake.