N. CA Established
Significance to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

The 1971 San Fernando earthquake caused significant damage to engineered buildings and bridges, and clearly demonstrated the need for a more rapid improvement in seismic design standards and hazard mitigation strategies. Up until that time, improvements in design practice and proposed code changes came primarily through voluntary efforts by committees of the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC), an effective but slow and arduous process. In recognition of the need to increase the speed of development of better structural engineering standards and practices, the Applied Technology Council (ATC) was created based on a structure that it would pay consultants to conduct work to advance the practice and technology of structural engineering, as opposed to relying on voluntary service. In 1973, the organization was officially established as a non-profit corporation in the State of California and is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

ATC’s mission is to develop and promote state-of-the-art, user-friendly engineering resources and applications for use in mitigating the effects of natural and other hazards on the built environment. ATC’s primary focus is to conduct and translate research into usable design information. The reports produced by ATC summarize current technological developments in the structural engineering practice and although ATC is not a code development organization, ATC project reports frequently serve as resource documents for the development of codes, standards and specifications. Historically, funding for ATC has primarily come from the principal agencies of the U.S. National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) which include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Since its incorporation in 1973, ATC has completed more than 60 major technical projects. Until the mid-1990’s, ATC projects focused on earthquake engineering issues. However, the scope of ATC has recently broadened to include projects in wind engineering, coastal engineering, and blast-resistant design. ATC conducts seminars and workshops, identifies and encourages needed research, and develops guidelines and manuals containing consensus opinions and broad perspective on structural engineering issues.

ATC conducts projects that ensure the primary benefactor is the design practitioner in structural engineering, that a cross section or consensus of engineering opinion is obtained, and that the project fosters the advancement of structural engineering practice. ATC is credited with the formation of the response reduction factors (R-Factors) in the current building code through the publication of ATC-3. ATC-13 is a report on earthquake damage and loss estimation and has been widely used nationwide for earthquake insurance portfolio analysis. ATC-14 and ATC-33 provided the eventual basis of ASCE 41: Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Existing Buildings. Since its publication after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, ATC-20 has provided a standard for the post-earthquake safety evaluation of buildings. Similarly, ATC contributed to FEMA 154, Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards.

Overall, ATC has evolved into a major player in the United States for the advancement of structural engineering applications and resources for mitigating the effects of natural and man-made hazards on the built environment and continues to fill a unique role in the development of the structural engineering profession.

Related Engineer(s)
  • Roland L. Sharpe
  • Steve Johnston
  • William Giles
  • William W. Moore
  • Jon Heintz
  • Christopher Rojahn
  • Ayse Hortacsu
  • Ephraim Gordon Hirsch