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Building and Safety Division
Building and Safety Division

Unreinforced Masonry Buildings

Unreinforced masonry buildings are generally brick buildings constructed prior to modern earthquake-resistant design. The brick is not strengthened with embedded steel bars and is therefore called “unreinforced.” In earthquakes, the brick walls, especially parapets, tend to disconnect from the building and fall outward, creating a hazard for people below and sometimes causing the building to collapse.

Read about our new Retrofit Grants, available to owners of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings.

The City of Berkeley established a Seismic Hazard Mitigation Program for Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Buildings on October 15, 1991. Staff created an inventory consisting of 587 URM buildings based on visual fieldURM Photos surveys, investigations and a review of property records.    

As of July, 2019, there are seven unreinforced masonry buildings remaining in Berkeley.  98% of building owners have complied with the requirement to retrofit or provide evidence of adequate steel reinforcement in their buildings. 

View the List of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings that still need to retrofit. 

Learn about Financing a Retrofit with the PACE Program.

Read Chapter 19.38 of the Berkeley Municipal Code, Berkeley’s law explaining the requirements for retrofit or removal from the inventory. This law defines a potentially hazardous unreinforced masonry (URM) building as:

  1. A building which was constructed prior to 1956, with masonry bearing walls containing seismic reinforcement at a level less than the minimum prescribed in the City of Berkeley "Standards for the Seismic Analysis of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings," and is approved for commercial or mixed use occupancy, or contains five or more living units; OR
  2.  A building which is located on a street in a high pedestrian traffic corridor and
    1. Contains at least one brick in-fill wall; OR
    2. Has a brick veneer ten feet in height or greater (measured from the adjoining grade); OR
  3. Has an unreinforced parapet that exceeds a one and one-half height/depth ratio.

URM Retrofit Graphic



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