Seismic Construction Enables Paint Booths to Withstand Earthquakes


In July 2019, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rattled Ridgecrest, California, the largest earthquake to hit Southern California in nearly 20 years. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, and the damage was relatively minor for such a massive earthquake. New information is learned from each earthquake, as building codes are continually being updated to better protect the public.

Things could have been a lot worse in Ridgecrest, not only for homeowners, but for businesses, including body shops, collision repair centers and production facilities. It is a reality-shaking reminder as to why your next paint booth needs to be designed to meet the adopted code for your area.

Seismic Construction Building Codes

The International Building Code (IBC) contains the guidelines that regulate proper design and construction to help protect life safety. Earthquakes are more prevalent in certain parts of the United States. These locations are not limited to the West Coast.  They include a large area around Memphis, Tennessee, most of the South Carolina coast and even upstate New York. The end result is extra planning for paint booth manufacturers and additional permit requirements for shop owners prior to installation.

A paint booth in an earthquake-prone area should be designed and installed with components that make the booth meet code. This could include a higher gauge of material for the walls and roof, sturdier construction in the fastening of components and additional anchorage of the booth to the ground.

“There are things that need to be done to the paint booth to ensure it is strong enough to withstand the environment you are putting it in,” said Geoff Raifsnider, a senior mechanical engineer for Global Finishing Solutions (GFS).

Earthquake Forecast

California and Northern Oklahoma remain the most likely destinations for damage-inducing earthquakes, according to forecasts by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). About 10,000 earthquakes shake California each year, most of them too minor to be felt. In Oklahoma, small earthquakes are hundreds of times more common than at any time in state history.

To put the minimal damage of the Ridgecrest earthquake in perspective, an earthquake of a 6.7 magnitude hit Northridge, California, in 1994. It was California’s deadliest and costliest earthquake in two-plus decades — killing 57 people, injuring more than 9,000 and causing $44 billion in damage. A 2018 USGS study found that a hypothetical magnitude 7 earthquake on the 52-mile Hayward fault in Northern California could kill 800 people, burn 52,000 homes and displace 400,000 people.

Aftershock on Your Business’ Bottom Line

Seismic construction does not significantly alter the appearance and does not change the functionality of a paint booth. It simply reduces the likelihood of a catastrophic failure.

The added expense of seismic construction pays off in the long run. For a busy body shop, if an earthquake were to knock your paint booth out of commission, it could cost your business up to $30,000 per week in missed productivity.

When a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Anchorage, Alaska, in 2018, public facilities suffered $76 million in damage. Yet Able Body Shop’s Ultra XD Paint Booths were unscathed, as they were designed with seismic construction by GFS. While parts of Anchorage started to rebuild, it was business as usual for them.

“With GFS’ experienced staff of engineers, we were able to get seismic drawings to make sure our paint booths were safe in the event of an earthquake,” said Ryan Cropper, owner of Able Body Shop. “Support like that isn’t dealt with everywhere. After the earthquake, when we had inspectors asking questions, our local distributor, Cronquist Equipment, had GFS to lean on for additional support.”

Before investing in a paint booth in an earthquake-prone area, make sure to ask your paint booth manufacturer whether the booth is designed for all code-required loads based on your specific site. Otherwise, your business will be at risk the next time a big one hits.

 “GFS designs paint booths to meet the seismic loads your booth might experience,” Raifsnider said. “Before buying a new paint booth, you should always ask the booth manufacturer about seismic construction.”

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