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New Seismic Peer Review RFP and Fees

City of Portland, Bureau of Development Services

On December 17, 2014 the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) issued a request for proposal (RFP) to contract with qualified engineering teams to provide Peer Review Services for building submittals utilizing Performance Based Design methodology. Peer Reviews are required when a developer and their design team propose a building that utilizes Performance Based Design to create a unique Lateral Force Resisting System to meet seismic requirements. Rather than follow the prescriptive design options specified in the Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC), Performance Based Design uses analyses such as computer modeling to demonstrate that the building will meet or exceed the structural requirements of the building code. The Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC) requires that buildings designed using Performance Based Design methods undergo peer review by a qualified team of engineering professionals who are not part of the building design team. Peer reviews are also required for designs that utilize analysis methods that include non-linear time history analysis for seismic designs, when structures are designed to be base isolated for lateral forces, or when viscous dampers are used as part of the lateral load resisting system. The Peer reviewers test design assumptions to ensure that the proposed design provides structural performance that equals or exceeds that required by the Oregon Structural Specialty Code.

The Performance Based Design approach is typically used for high rise buildings exceeding 240 feet in height that are constructed with concrete core walls, but other performance based design solutions can trigger Peer Review. By moving away from the prescriptive code requirements and using Performance Based Design to resolve the seismic issues for tall buildings, the developer and contractor believe they realize savings in time and materials while achieving seismic resistance that meets or exceeds the requirements of the OSSC. Through this RFP, the Bureau will recruit up to three qualified engineering teams to perform Peer Reviews on an as-needed basis, including a high rise project that is proposed to begin design work as early as February 2015. Other west coast cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have contracted with Peer Review teams since 2008 to supplement their plan staff for projects using Performance Based design. BDS expects Performance Based Design and other design approaches that require peer reviews by OSSC to slowly increase over the next several years in Portland as well.

To recover the costs associated with Peer Review services, the Bureau is proposing a Peer Review Fee. This fee is anticipated to cover the actual cost of the Peer Review for each project, plus an additional 3% project management fee to cover the time BDS employees spend working with peer reviewers and insuring contract compliance. The City Council hearing on the Peer Review Fee Ordinance is scheduled for January 28, 2015 at 9:45 A.M.

It is important to note that BDS anticipates only one to three projects over the next 5 years to request this service. The use of Performance Based Design and other alternative design methods is completely voluntary on the part of the developer, and only those few projects will be subject to the Peer Review fee. The vast majority of work reviewed by BDS, such as single family construction and most commercial construction, will not utilize performance based design or be subject to the required Peer Review, and therefore will not be impacted by the fee.

The Peer Review RFP and Fee will allow BDS to meet its obligation under the OSSC to approve alternative design methods that provide strength and safety equivalent to that provided by prescriptive provisions of the code. It also allows BDS to maintain a strong commitment to provide excellent programs and services while operating in a fiscally responsible manner.

For Questions or further information, please contact Amit Kumar at 503-823-7561 or