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A Call for Discussion on Foundation Investigation Standards

One of the groups that I have participated with in the past is the Foundation Performance Association. This is an independent engineering group based in Houston Texas. This is an extremely active group with membership that spans the globe, meets regularly and hosts many papers. They share their information freely in an open source format including many technical papers and consensus docs.

One of the open source style papers that the FPA makes freely available on their website is the “Guidelines for the Evaluation of Foundation Movement for Residential and Other Low Rise Buildings”.http://www.foundationperformance.org/projects/FPA-SC-13-1.pdf. This document provides some consensus in this area of forensics. The only one of its kind that I know of.

In my previous blogs I have pointed out some problems inherent in the current foundation repair industry. To summarize they are:

  • Most of the diagnostic training for foundation repair contractors comes from their single source supplier. While this is not bad in and of itself, it can limit the diagnostics to only recognize and deliver solutions that utilize the products supplied by that supplier.
  • Most investigations are done by commissioned salespeople. This presents several problems:
    • The inherent personalities of sales personnel are not detail oriented and lead to oversimplification of the issues and a lack of scientific detail needed for accurate analysis.
    • Because of the commissioned nature of the position there is an inherent conflict of interest that conflicts directly with the objectivity of the investigation. Sales personnel have vested interest to perceive problems through the lens of their solutions. They also have a direct conflict in objectively evaluating the severity of the problem.
  • Most contractors in an attempt to keep from losing business to competitors attempt to evaluate, diagnose, offer solutions and close the contract all in a single visit. This leads inevitably to hasty solutions that lack scientific analysis and fundamental engineering causative support.
  • Almost no oversight by engineering professionals in the investigative process. This in of itself could overcome many of the shortcomings noted above if it were done regularly.
  • There are no standards to be followed by foundation repair contractors in their investigative and evaluative process leading to a wide disparity of methods and resulting in huge differences in recommendations that lack objectivity.

Because there have been in the past, almost no viable solutions for heave, foundation contractors have not demonstrated the skills nor the will to effectively and consistently tell the difference between heave and settlement, resulting in misdiagnoses in a large majority of the cases.

The foundation repair industry across the United States and Canada is more than a $50Billion Industry. If 50% of those repairs are spent on solutions that are of no value, that is a huge economic waste.

The standards proposed by the FPA make at least a framework that if adopted could reduce the wastes and bring order to the process.

Could we here in Arizona piggy back off all of the hard work that the FPA in Texas has done? Could we adopt some of their consensus standards bringing more legitimacy to them benefiting ourselves and help spread the consensus nationwide?

I have discussed this with many of the active engineering leaders in Arizona including the President of the local Geo Institute, Peter Kandaris, who has asked me to present these thoughts at the June meeting.

I am inviting discussion here as input prior to that meeting. Please share your thoughts, concerns questions or any other input.


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