Seismic Upgrades for Washington County Buildings

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sponsored by: Support Services Department

Washington County Buildings to Receive Critical Seismic Upgrades

Although compliant with existing building codes when it was completed in 1990, Washington County's Charles D. Cameron Public Services Building is not likely to withstand a catastrophic earthquake. Engineering studies have revealed that the building's structural frame and internal systems are at risk, in light of scientific predictions of a major earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This, according to Senior Project Manager Bassam Khalifeh, is what prompted the Board of Commissioners to allocate necessary funds toward critical seismic upgrades which are now getting underway. In addition to the seismic retrofit, the project also incorporates water sealing work in the basement and upgrades to critical building systems, including HVAC, lighting and security.

The Public Services Building (PSB) is the base of operations for numerous County departments and services and is used by hundreds of people on any given business day. In the event of a catastrophic earthquake, it will be vitally important to protect life safety within the building and to ensure the "immediate occupancy" of the facility. "Immediate occupancy" is a high building performance level in current building codes with regard to earthquakes. Facilities built or retrofitted to this level would be expected to sustain limited damage to structural components and internal systems during a major earthquake. The risk of life-threatening injury as a result of damage is very low at this level as well. Immediate occupancy of the PSB after an earthquake will be a key component of the response and recovery efforts and would enable the community to regain vital services more quickly in the days and weeks that follow.

The County has contracted with Portland-based SERA Architects to begin this complex and multi-phased process. So far, the company has conducted an "existing conditions investigation" and a "seismic performance workshop" which helped to inform the initial planning efforts. Geo-technical and soil liquefaction studies have also been completed, as well as a design concept. The City of Hillsboro has approved the Design Review Submission and the County is now in the process of selecting a construction manager/general contractor. Once the chosen firm is onboard, the overall plan will be finalized and work on the project will begin. The PSB seismic retrofit is expected to take approximately two years and a total of $17.6 million dollars to complete. The project budget includes an allocation of roughly $13.75 million from Gain Share revenue. A scaled model of the design is on display in the third floor lobby of the PSB.


One block away at the Sheriff's Office, plans are also underway for a seismic retrofit. In a competitive grant application process through Business Oregon's Infrastructure Finance Authority, the County was awarded $1.5 million to upgrade and strengthen the Law Enforcement Center (LEC). Just like hospitals, fire stations and other critical service providers, the LEC is considered an "essential facility" and must maintain operational capability following a major seismic event. Grant funding will be augmented by other County resources to initiate this project in the coming year.

In the future, as part of an ongoing strategic approach, the seismic integrity of other County buildings will also be addressed. Efforts to reinforce and retrofit the Walnut Street Center and the Washington County Courthouse will be undertaken when current projects are complete and as additional funding sources are identified.

With regard to residential structures in the wider community, many were constructed using older techniques which are inadequate to withstand the forces that earthquakes can cause. Washington County's Planning and Development Services (a division of Land Use and Transportation) urges property owners to take note of the earthquake readiness of their homes. Without proper anchorage, a large earthquake can move the ground and the foundation right out from under the house, making it uninhabitable. For information about seismic strengthening for homes, please go to

For general earthquake readiness information and links to preparedness resources, go to


Media Contact:

Julie McCloud, Public and Govt. Affairs Assistant