The VMC Group
The VMC Group

Certification History

The single largest influence on the development of building codes over the past forty years has been the observation of the behavior of real buildings during an earthquake event. A lull of earthquake activity in populated areas within the United States between 1940 and 1970 gave a false sense of security at a time where population growth was dramatically on the upswing in metropolitan areas – particularly in California.

Two California earthquakes forever changed the building code requirements for structural and non-structural components. In 1971 a 6.6 magnitude quake occurred in a sparsely populated area of the San Gabriel Mountains, near San Fernando. Lasting just 12 seconds, the quake caused property damage of more than $500 million in the Los Angeles area while taking 65 lives and injuring more than 2,000. The majority of deaths happened at two healthcare facilities, the Olive Health Medical Center and Veterans Hospital. Both facilities featured mixed construction styles and seismometers established by local ordinances in areas nearby, which were able to measure the extraordinary amount of strong motion data recorded during the event.

This quake served as a wakeup call to California and the rest of the country. Legislators quickly passed laws focused on health care facilities calling for the application of medical facility safety standards on all new hospital construction. Many changes were also made to the building code, including:

•    The effect of site conditions on ground shaking intensity was reintroduced into the code as an S coefficient within the base shear formula.
•    The continued observance of very poor performance of concrete frame elements led to 1973 code requirements that all concrete frame elements designed to resist earthquake forces must be detailed for ductile performance.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake provided many more lessons on how buildings respond to major seismic activities. One such learning was retrofitted hospitals stood up nicely to this quake, but failures to non-structural building components like HVAC systems and power caused the hospitals to close down during the height of the emergency.

In 2007, California adopted the IBC® building code into California building code (CBC). OSHPD had to comply with the Special Seismic Certification provisions that were required to prove that non-structural building components, such as HVAC equipment would remain functional after an event.  While the rest of the country was reeling in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, and the commencement of the Great Recession, California had received and was spending billions of dollars in retrofitting hospitals to meet various regulations, including seismic compliance. OSHPD (Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development), being the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) for hospitals in California, quickly commenced a pre-approval program for an OSHPD Special Seismic Certification program, which assigns a pre-approval “OSP” number for non-structural building equipment that is tested and accepted by OSHPD. While the rest of the country was in an economic collapse and building construction was coming to a halt, manufacturing companies seeking to sell equipment in one of the only viable markets in the country at the time, California hospitals, quickly moved to comply with the new shake table testing requirements. National and regional engineering firms lined up to provide the shake table services.

A few companies, including The VMC Group with our decades of engineering, testing and manufacturing isolation components for non-structural equipment use, chose to become a Certified Seismic Qualification Agency. Since 2003, The VMC Group has been providing seismic testing and certification for manufacturers. The VMC Group has expanded our services to include a path for continued compliance and is currently the only agency with this capability.

Click here to view our listing of IBC Certifications.