Tall Buildings in San Francisco

The San Francisco Tall Buildings Study is the first study in the nation to look at the impact of earthquakes on a large group of buildings higher than 240 feet. The resulting report will characterize the issues and available information; propose regulatory and procedural recommendations where appropriate; and identify areas where future studies would be helpful.  

The San Francisco Office of Resilience and Capital Planning under City Administrator Naomi Kelly is working with the Applied Technology Council (ATC) to conduct the Study. ATC is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and promote state-of-the-art, user-friendly engineering resources and applications for use in hazard mitigation.  A panel including the City Administrator, Department of Building Inspection, Department of Emergency Management, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is overseeing the various work products. In addition, a broad group of tall building stakeholders and experts will meet several times during the study to provide additional feedback and review.

A summary of the areas the Tall Buildings Study will cover includes the following: 

  1. Seismic Performance Characterization of Existing Tall Buildings.  This task will develop an inventory for purposes of establishing the broad scope and context of tall buildings in San Francisco.
  2. Tall Building Effects. This task will summarize seismic risks that are disproportionately associated with tall buildings, and present recommendations for new policy and further research. Issues to be studied relate to safety, emergency response, economic loss, re-occupancy, and functional recovery. 
  3. Standards for Post-Earthquake Structural Evaluation. This task will develop a scope of work for development of new and updated guidance to evaluate earthquake damage in tall buildings in San Francisco.
  4. Barriers to Re-occupancy of Tall Buildings. This task will produce a summary report on post-earthquake re-occupancy of tall buildings, identifying expected barriers and recommending new or revised procedures and regulations.
  5. Costs and Benefits of Higher Performance Goals for New Construction. This task will quantify costs in terms of initial development costs and benefits in terms of reduced damage, casualties, and recovery time, considering benefits to the City as a whole and to individual stakeholders. 
  6. Geotechnical Engineering for Tall Buildings. This task will review and compile best practices in geotechnical engineering that could apply in San Francisco.

The findings of the Tall Buildings Study tasks listed above will be summarized in a final report including regulatory and procedural recommendations.  These recommendations will be based on findings of the technical work. 

For more information, please contact Danielle Mieler, Principal Resilient Analyst in the Office of Resilience and Capital Planning at Danielle.Mieler@sfgov.org.