ASCEASCE Guidelines – Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations

Q.What are the guidelines for evaluating residential foundations in Texas?

In May 2009, the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers authored ” ASCE Guidelines – Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations (version 2) “. This document is widely accepted by most practicing professionals as the “de facto” standard for evaluating residential foundation systems in San Antonio, Austin, and the entire state of Texas area.

Q. What is the “de facto” standard?

To date, a method for evaluating residential foundations that combines the various civil, geotechnical, and structural evaluation aspects of residential foundation systems into one concise document geared for Texas soils has not been authored. With its wide acceptance and ongoing use by most engineering professionals, the “Guidelines for the Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations” version 2” has evolved become the accepted foundation evaluation standard throughout the state of Texas.

Q. Why was there a need to establish a guideline for inspecting residential foundation systems in Texas?

The need grew out of the response of many Section members to the Policy Advisory issued by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE, Austin, Texas) in 1998.

Q. What did the Policy Advisory address?

A. Residential foundation engineering. Many ASCE practitioners expressed the opinion that technical guidance should more rightly be created by a technical society such as ASCE and not by the TBPE. One goal of the guidelines has been to give the TBPE direction in their evaluation of complaints brought against engineers practicing residential foundation engineering. The Guidelines help to assure foundations are evaluated against a common standard. In doing so, the same evaluation standard applies to any foundation system, giving  the end-user (customer) an objective, reliable, and comparable way to assess the “health” of a foundation system. Regardless of its size, geometry, or geographical location, the condition of one foundation system could then be be reliably compared to another.

Q. Who wrote the guidelines?

Experienced engineers. Civil, structural, forensic, and other types of engineers. Several of these engineers testified as experts in the Texas courts.

Q. How were the guidelines put together?

One committee and two subcommittees were formed to discuss the raised concerns. One subcommittee addressed “Recommended Practice for the Design of Residential Foundations”, and the other worked to develop “The Guidelines for the Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations”. The Residential Foundation Oversight (“Oversight”) Committee provided review guidance to the two previously mentioned subcommittees.

Q. Were the committee members licensed engineers?

Yes. The Oversight Committee and both subcommittees were composed entirely of ASCE members who were licensed engineers. Subcommittee membership was open to any Texas Section member who wished to take part. The dollar value of the professional services donated to the effort is conservatively estimated to exceed $1,000,000.

Q. Are the Guidelines mandatory or optional?

The Guidelines are not Standards. They are guidelines reflecting the engineering opinions, practices, education, and experience of the committee member authors. They do not substitute wise engineering judgment. Their primary aim is to aid engineers as a technical resource.

Q. What type of engineer can perform residential foundation evaluations in Texas?

According to an advisory opinion#16 issued by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers on 2-24-2006, “There is no need in the Texas Engineering Practice Act (the Act) to practice engineering only in the area that was tested for during the Principles and Practice exam”. And, “…the Texas Legislature has only identified the licensing of an engineer, not specific disciplines”. Finally, “…All engineers are required under the Act to practice only in their area(s) of competence…”

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