Structural Inspection Continuing Education Series: Does a Standard Exist in Texas for Residential Foundation Structural Inspections?
The following Q & A is an excerpt from an interview with Jeff Lineberger, P. E., Principal Engineer, Lineberger Consulting Engineers, Inc. Mr. Lineberger has 30 years engineering experience both domestically and internationally. Mr. Lineberger practices civil/structural engineering throughout Texas, and testifies as an expert in both the Federal and Texas court systems.
Q. Is there a standard in Texas for evaluating residential foundations?
A. Technically, no. However, in May 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) adopted the “Guidelines for the Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations” version 2. It is widely accepted by most practicing professionals as the “de facto” standard for evaluating residential foundation systems.
Q. What do mean by “de facto”?
A. 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 professionals, and in the absence of any known foundation evaluation standard or guideline, the “Guidelines for the Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations” version 2” has thus becomes an accepted and indispensable structural foundation inspection guideline or “de facto standard” in Texas.
Q. Why was there a need to establish a standard for inspecting residential foundation systems?
A. The need grew out of the response of many Section members to the Policy Advisory issued by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) in 1998.
Q. What did the Policy Advisory address?
A. Residential foundation engineering. Many ASCE practitioners expressed the opinion that technical guidelines should more rightly be created by a technical society such as ASCE rather than by the TBPE. One goal of the guidelines has been to provide the TBPE with guidance in their evaluation of complaints brought against engineers practicing residential foundation engineering.
Q. Who wrote the guidelines?
A. Experienced engineers. Civil, structural, forensic, and other types of engineers. Several of theses engineers testified as experts in the Texas courts.
Q. How were the guidelines put together?
A. One committee and two subcommittees were formed to address 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?
A. 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 participate. 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 ?
A. The Guidelines are not intended to be Standards. They are merely a guide or protocol for conducting Residential foundation evaluations. They are meant to reflect the engineering opinions and practices of the committee members. They in no way replace the basic need for good engineering judgment based on appropriate education, training, experience, wisdom, and ethics in any particular engineering application. Thus, they are primarily suited as an aid for use by engineers.
Q. What type of engineer can perform a residential foundation evaluation?
A. According to an advisory opinion (EAOR #16) issued by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers on 2-24-2006, “There is no requirement 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…”