soft story buildings

The Astonishing Risks of Soft Story Buildings All You Need to Know

You may have heard about soft story buildings on television, social media, or in newspapers. This term is used by civil engineers and more specifically used by structural engineers. In this blog, we will clear your concepts regarding soft story buildings. You will know what are risks and challenges associated with soft story buildings and what are their solutions. After reading this blog, you will have a better understanding of soft story buildings.

Soft Story Buildings

What is a Soft Story Building?

Soft-story building has a flexible ground floor, or you can say a weak ground floor. Now, what makes them flexible? You may have observed that the ground floor has more open spaces as compared to the upper floors. These open spaces are mostly due to parking and pedestrian crossing. These open spaces reduce the stiffness of ground floors. Therefore, the ground floor offers less resistance to earthquake lateral forces as compared to the upper floors. Thus, the ground floor of such buildings is more prone to structural damage as compared to the upper floors. Keep in mind not always open spaces are responsible for a soft story/weak story, sometimes weaker design and improper steel reinforcement can also result in a weaker ground floor.

The Risks Associated with Soft Story Buildings

Earthquake Vulnerability:

Soft-story buildings pose a great threat in case of seismic activity. As discussed above, the soft story offers less resistance to the lateral forces of earthquakes. Therefore, seismic forces (earthquake forces) will cause the soft story to sway more (sway means lateral movement of the building).  

Sway can put the structural integrity of the building at greater risk. Earthquake-resistant buildings can bear this sway but buildings that are not designed against earthquakes can structurally fail under these conditions.

Soft Story Buildings

Human Safety Concerns:

In case of structural failure of the building due to soft story in the event of an earthquake, occupants will suffer. Total collapse of buildings can result in injuries and fatalities.

Economic Loss:

In the event of an earthquake, infrastructure damage is the cause of major economic loss. In case of damage to soft-story buildings, their repair cost, property devaluation, and loss of business income will affect the economy.

Solutions to Address Soft Story Issues


Retrofitting means making changes to the structural system of a building to save it from different hazards. In retrofitting, a building is modified using newer technology which enhances the overall structural stability of the building. Consult a structural engineer and perform an inspection of your building. If your building comes out to be a soft-story building, retrofitting is the best option. Although you may find retrofitting expensive when you compare economic loss in case of total collapse and loss of human lives, you will find it very cheap. Retrofitting will significantly improve your building’s resistance to earthquakes.

Structural Redesign:

In case your building has not been constructed yet and you find out that it may have a weaker ground floor. Then consult a structural engineer and look for some alternative design.

Awareness and Education:

Raising awareness about the risks associated with soft-story buildings is crucial. Educating architects, engineers, builders, and property owners about the potential dangers can lead to more responsible design and construction practices.


Soft-story buildings are of great concern, especially in earthquake-prone regions. Due to their vulnerability to earthquakes, there is always the possibility of loss of human lives. In the case of soft-story buildings, there should be no leniency in implementing strict policies to safeguard the lives and property of people. It is also the responsibility of building owners to consult structural engineers to identify weak ground floors and implement retrofitting techniques to improve structural stability.

Brickborne believes in accuracy and time construction without wastage of resources. We believe in economical and sustainable construction. With the advancing world, software is here to assist us in the construction field. Brickborne provides construction drawings as per codes of the region, 3D modeling, rendering, and animation walkthroughs of both interior and exterior, and quantity surveying and cost estimation. Choose us to change your dreams into reality as we say, Brickborne- We Design Your Ideas!

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