Braced for Safety: Washington County’s Law Enforcement Center

by | March 14, 2018 3 Architecture

Yesterday, Washington County officials cut a ribbon to mark the completion of structural seismic upgrades to the Law Enforcement Center at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office & Jail!

SERA was hired to design the structural approach with KPFF Consulting Engineers in December 2015. Although the building is only 22 years old, analysis and advancement in seismic engineering indicated that it might be compromised in a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

Previous studies, by others, had proposed wrapping each column in the two-story facility with carbon fiber, which would have been very disruptive to the sheriff’s office operations. The SERA-KPFF team instead proposed lateral resistance with six external steel-braced frames that connect the roof and second floor concrete moment frame.

Once this solution was selected, our designer Gauri Rajbaidya looked for a way to integrate the frames so that they would seem original to the building. During our pre-app with City of Hillsboro Planner David McIlnay, David expressed a similar desire for complementing the building’s aesthetic. The ensuing conversation with David quickly focused on attenuation of the brace frame and a dialogue on the philosophies of designers Ed Durrell and Glen Murcutt, and became a brainstorming session.

Brainstorming sketch

The idea to soften the edges of the brace frame joints and the gusset plates developed from that collaborative meeting with David. Patrick Sullivan, from SERA’s team, refined the curve to run horizontally, which was more efficient with the steel.

The project was completed by JE Dunn Construction two weeks ahead of schedule, and roughly $700,000 under the project budget.

The Law Enforcement Center project received $1.5 million from the state’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program, and is the first to be completed in a series of county buildings which will receive seismic upgrades over the next several years.

Big shout out to my team-great job everyone! George Hager, Gauri Rajbaidya, Patrick Sullivan and Laura Bass.

Braced frame closeup


  1. Shelby Schroeder says |

    Looks great! Thanks for the update, Becky!

  2. Ross Determan says |

    Looks like a very elegant solution. Nice work!

  3. becky epstein says |

    Whoops! I forgot to include Laura Bass in my team shout out…she expertly coordinated the staff moves with the County. Thanks Laura!

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