Understanding Your Building’s Performance In Disasters

The USRC Building Rating System describes the expected impacts of an earthquake or other natural disaster on buildings. The rating considers the performance of a building’s structure, its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and architectural components such as cladding, windows, partitions, and ceilings.

A USRC Verified Rating can be used for promotional, marketing and publicity purposes to set your building apart. Owners whose Verified Ratings meet specific performance thresholds can use the badges below to promote the resilient design of their buildings.

Each Verified Rating is

  • Performed by certified professionals,

  • Technically reviewed,

  • Transparent – using national standards,

  • Credible – designed to prevent manipulation,

  • Easy for the lay person to understand,

  • The USRC Building Rating System assigns one to five stars along the dimensions of Safety, Damage expressed as repair cost and Recovery expressed as time to regain basic function. 

The USRC Platinum Rating represents a the highest level of building performance and is intended to exceed modern code standards in terms of safety, by protecting occupants against major injury and egress restrictions. Platinum rated buildings are expected to suffer negligible damage - less than 5% of replacement cost, and allow functional recovery within a few days of a major seismic event. The USRC Platinum Rating is sought by owners who demand the highest level of asset protection and virtually uninterrupted functionality of their operations.

The USRC Gold Rating represents a very high level of performance that is intended to exceed modern code standards in terms of safety, by protecting occupants against major injury. Gold rated buildings are expected to suffer only minor damage - less than 10% of replacement cost, and allow functional recovery within several weeks of a major seismic event. The USRC Gold Rating is sought by owners who demand high levels of asset protection and minimal disruption to their operations.

The USRC Silver Rating is for buildings that in addition to meeting the Certified standards are expected to suffer significantly reduced damage - less than 20% of replacement cost, and allow functional recovery within a few months of a major seismic event. The USRC Silver Rating is awarded to buildings where limiting damage is an important consideration, as for properties with commercial loans and in the transactional due diligence market.

The USRC Certified Rating is for buildings that have been evaluated by the US Resilience Council and comply with modern codes for performance in earthquakes. Certified buildings are expected to perform in a manner that will preserve life safety of the occupants, limit damage to repairable levels under 40% of replacement cost, and allow functional recovery within a year of a major seismic event. Nearly 60% of most cities’ existing building inventories will not comply with this standard. The USRC Certified Rating signifies that a building is expected to achieve a level of performance consistent with new building standards.

The USRC Transaction Rating gives your team a reliable due diligence report for making well-informed property investment decisions and managing risk exposure, accommodating both the schedule and cost demands of the leasing, sales, finance and insurance industry. It delivers consistent information regardless of the engineer performing the evaluation. Random technical reviews are performed to maintain credibility. Your Transaction Rating will remain confidential with the USRC. 

Obtain a USRC Building Rating

 What is included in a USRC Rating

  • The SAFETY rating describes the potential for people in the building to get out of the building unharmed after an event. 

  • The DAMAGE rating describes the estimated cost to repair the building after an event as a percentage of the building’s replacement cost.

  • The RECOVERY rating expressed as the time to regain basic function is an estimate of the minimum time required to effect repairs and to remove safety hazards impeding use of the building.

  • For earthquake hazards, ratings are based on ground shaking intensity typically required by codes for the design of a new building. The USRC is currently developing ratings for other hazards, including wind, wildfire and flood.

What is not included in a USRC Rating?

The USRC star ratings reflect performance estimates made by USRC certified engineers who have reviewed the building’s engineering design. Many factors beyond the control of an engineer affect the performance of a building:

  • Hazard intensity often varies from the intensities expected for the region.

  • Construction might deviate from the plans, or changes could have been made after the rating has been awarded.

  • Building occupants might introduce hazardous materials or create additional hazards. 

The DAMAGE rating does not include

  • Damage caused by fire and water and gas pipe breakage,

  • Damage to the building contents or furnishings,

  • Market conditions following the event such as increases in construction costs,

  • Specialized work to repair historic features or remove hazardous materials,

  • Building upgrades or improvements required by building codes, or

  • Business interruption economic losses.

The RECOVERY rating does not include the time to

  • Fully restore all building functions,

  • Repair all damage, and

  • Repair utilities, transportation systems, adjacent building and other external damage.

The USRC Rating is not a precise estimate of building safety, damage and recovery time, given the variables that are not included in the rating and the uncertainty in predicting the exact performance of buildings subject to natural hazards. The USRC strongly recommends that building owners and tenants carefully consider these factors, and then take measures to reduce risks, remove hazards from the work place, and prepare plans for business resumption.

Meeting the Credibility Challenge

Existing risk quantification metrics are subject to real or perceived distortion and manipulation within the marketplace. The USRC has both a certification and technical review program for professionals who provide USRC Building Ratings. Certification requires both experience and specific knowledge of structural engineering and the performance of buildings subject to different natural and man-made hazards.

Can I improve my USRC Rating?

New Buildings

  • Seismic building codes are minimum performance standards intended to limit the likelihood of collapse in a very rare earthquake. However,  substantial damage may occur in many structures rendering them unfit for occupancy or use.

  • For a new building, a seismic design that results in a four or five star USRC rating may add only 0 to 5 percent to construction costs, or less than a typical contingency budget.  

  • The USRC rating system allows an owner to specify the desired level of performance rather than accept the default performance of a building designed to the minimum level prescribed by the building code. 

  • A USRC rating empowers developers and building owners to make informed decisions about what aspects of performance matter most to them and to explore the cost-effectiveness of seeking higher levels of performance.

Existing Buildings

  • Most cities do not require that an existing building be brought into full compliance with the current building code when an owner voluntarily seeks to improve a building’s structural capacity.

  • Even after safety issues are corrected, performance expectations can vary widely and remain unknown. The USRC rating system allows owners to show that the anticipated building performance aligns with their expectations. 

Who are USRC Rating Users

  • Owners use USRC Ratings  because properties having high USRC ratings benefit from increased perceived value (similar to LEED® accredited properties), potentially increasing leasing rates and transaction efficiency. 

  • Lenders and Insurers use USRC Ratings  to make informed real estate transactions associated with lending decisions and defining insurance products.

  • Tenants and Lessees Value a USRC Rating as it relates to both safety and recovery time following a major event and to make go/no go leasing decisions.

  • Governments and Institutions use USRC Ratings  to identify safe buildings and make long-term strategic plans for reducing reconstruction costs and recovery time following earthquakes. 

  • Architects use USRC Ratings as an integral part of resilient design strategies for their clients.
CoRE Rating Safety Reparability Functionality
Life Safe Loss < 5% Occupiable Immediately
Functional < 72 hours
Life Safe Loss < 10% Occupiable Immediately
Functional < 1 month
Life Safe Loss < 20% Occupiable < 1 month
Functional < 6 months
Certified Life Safe Not Estimated Not Estimated
Not Certified Life Safe
Not Estimated Not Estimated