April 10, 1933
Impact to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

The Field Act was one of the first pieces of legislation ever that mandated earthquake-resistant construction. The Field Act requirements include:

  • The Division of the State Architect (DSA), which was established under this act, is to review and approve all public school plans and specifications and to provide general supervision of the construction work.
  • School building designs should be based on high-level building standards adopted by the state.
  • Plans and specifications should be prepared by competent, licensed architects and engineers. In the case of engineers, a structural engineering license is required.
  • Quality of construction is enforced through independent peer review and continuous independent inspection.
  • The design professionals, independent inspector and the contractor must verify under penalty of perjury that the building was constructed according to the approved construction documents.

The Field Act applied only to new construction; not to existing pre-1933 school buildings. Legislation covering the criteria for retrofit or demolition of these pre-1933 school buildings was enacted under the Garrison Act of 1939. Since the enforcement of the Field Act, no school complying with this law has collapsed because of a seismic event, and there has been no loss of life.


In the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, 120 schools in and around the Long Beach area were damaged, of which 70 were destroyed. This accounted for approximately 75% of the public school buildings in the city. Fortunately the earthquake occurred late in the afternoon after schools had closed for the day. This narrowly-averted tragedy drew the public’s attention and led to the creation of emergency legislation within thirty days of the earthquake. The law was named after California Assemblyman and general contractor Charles Field, the key sponsor of the legislation.

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