Seismic Work and Landscape Impacts

Two trees in the left foreground with a row of trees in the background

Seismic Work and Landscape Impacts

As part of a systemwide mandate from the University of California, all UC buildings must be evaluated according to seismic safety ratings, laid out in the 2017 Seismic Safety Policy, by July of 2020. Any buildings that do not meet safety standards must be retrofitted to meet them or unoccupied by December 31, 2030. This means over the next decade, many UC Davis buildings, on the central campus and in satellite sites, will be demolished or undergo seismic corrective work.

Seismic corrective work involves digging deep underground and in a wide area around the building. This can damage the roots of trees, compromising their structural integrity and making it difficult for them to sustain themselves. In these instances, trees may need to be removed entirely. During construction, measures can be taken to mitigate damage to the surrounding landscape, such as using shoring techniques to reduce damage to roots. Even with these measures taken, sometimes damage is unavoidable. In these instances, new trees may be planted where appropriate.

The Chemistry Building

The Chemistry Building needs seismic corrections. The construction involved in making these corrections required major excavations below the basement floor level. These deep excavations posed a problem to the nearby clusters of trees, particularly to their root systems. The construction team attempted to mitigate damage to the trees using shoring techniques. The team was able to maintain a major cluster of trees on the northwest corner of the Chemistry building. However, they were not able to avoid removing major portions of the roots of trees in the Chemistry courtyard or of the trees on the west side of the building. With a significant part of the root system removed, the trees were left structurally unsound and unlikely to survive, so the construction team decided to remove them. While the removal of these trees was unfortunate, it presented an opportunity. The trees will be replaced with trees that are more sustainable and better suited to withstand climate change. Sumacs on the south side of the chemistry building were also removed. While these trees weren’t damaged by the construction, they were failing and others like them were slowly being removed around campus.