Hidden Strength with Carbon Fiber

Hidden Strength with Carbon Fiber

Los Angeles, California is a de facto seismic laboratory, a quality it shares with several other large cities in high seismic zones around the globe.  For example, Los Angeles’ building codes received significant seismic revisions based on the damage and its lessons after large earthquakes in 1933, 1971, and 1994.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple hails from the time before 1933.  This grand Byzantine revival building was completed in 1929, in what was then becoming one of the most fashionable parts of LA.  It was the third home of the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, and was designed by A.M. Edelman, son of the congregation’s first rabbi.  The building is entwined in the roots of Los Angeles, including ties to the motion picture business, which was consolidating into global dominance at the time the temple was built: it is said that the interior decoration of its landmark dome was funded by Hollywood wunderkind producer Irving Thalberg.

The congregation recently undertook a significant renovation and expansion of the temple structure and its surrounding campus.  The project was designed by the LA architectural firm of Levin and Associates.  while the renovation of the temple itself is now accomplished, the complete build-out of the campus is still years away.

During assessment of the temple’s structure, it was determined that seismic reinforcement should be added to certain walls and roof areas, to serve as sheer wall and diaphragms.  The walls concerned were all fully interior, and the roof areas did not include the dome, only certain flat areas surrounding it.

Engineering firm Structural Focus, Gardena, CA developed the reinforcement plan, and handed off the loading information to a specialist, Fyfe Company, Carlsbad, CA.  Fyfe is a kind of one-stop shop for carbon fiber reinforcement of structures.  They manufacture a line of products, design the reinforcement based on the structural engineer’s calculations, and install it through their own team or a certified applicator.

Fyfe designed a carbon fiber reinforcement plan that utilized different levels of coverage to achieve the appropriate load capacity.  50% coverage uses 12-in wide stripes of Fyfe’s Tyfo FibrWrap carbon fiber fabric, placed in parallel, with 12 inches of space between them.  Other areas merited either full coverage with a single layer, or full coverage with a double layer.

In order to apply it, the structural concrete was exposed.  Carbon fiber fabric approximately 1/16” thick was rolled out onto it.  Then Tyfo S two-part epoxy was applied, saturating the carbon fiber fabric and bonding it directly to the concrete.  In many composite applications, the resin serves to bind the reinforcement and stiffen it into a certain shape.  In this type of application, it acts as binder and adhesive.

Once the epoxy cured, the walls were furred out and finished.  The roof was covered with a Sarnafil membrane.  There is no visible evidence of the upgrade.  But when the earth trembles, it could make all the difference in the world.

 Photos via Structural Focus, Fyfe Cmpany, and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, as noted.