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Why ICC Regulation is Having Opposite Effect of its Intended Benefit for Foundation Repairs

There have been four helical manufactures to receive ESR’s for their products. No ESR’s have been issued in the last several years. Is it possible that the remaining manufacturers have realized that the current rules do more to hinder jurisdictional approvals than help?

On Commercial projects there are usually design submittal requirements that require a licensed engineering stamp to be included and there are almost universally soil borings to provide needed data for design. As such the ICC ESR does not provide significant tangible additional benefits as the local jurisdictions rely on the stamp of the local engineer, who almost always insist on boring data as a matter of practice regardless of ICC requirements.

On residential projects, the ICC requirement provides a distinct disadvantage. One of the requirements of all ESR issued products is a soil report with borings on every project. If the Regulating officials read and enforce that requirement in the ESR, then a full geo report is required with borings. On residential projects, this provides little benefit at cost of $3000-$5000 or more. This is required on even the smallest project of a few thousand dollars, providing a disincentive to pull permits or seek jurisdictional approval because of its imbalance in costs and benefits for the homeowner.

On residential projects the governing factor is almost always the span of the footings between the piles as opposed to the weight of the structure. What this means is the factor of safety is usually many times more than the required factor of 2. Even if the piles lock up on a hard lens with soft soil underneath, there is little likelihood of failure because of the large safety factors and lighter loads.

The reality is that although the requirement is that the ICC requires soil borings in all residential applications, it is almost universally ignored, signaling an almost unanimous rejection of it in practice and setting up a de facto alternative. This is a dangerous precedent with unpredictable outcomes and inconsistent enforcement. The opposite of what ICC intended.

There is a possible alternative. The IRC is intended to provide prescriptive measures in residential applications with a larger FOS to compensate. I think this qualifies. Rather than requiring soil reports with borings, a standardized prescriptive measure could be prescribed with larger FOS than non-prescriptive applications that could eliminate the need for borings. On new residential construction the same sort of logic is used with a minimum soil bearing capacity without borings.

As in other IRC applications permits and pre-engineered ICC approved products could be required, thus preserving the quality of the products and proper application and installation. Code officials could have a standard that could be uniformly enforced and the industry would more uniformly regulated, providing motivation for the remaining manufacturers to apply for and finish becoming ICC approved, making the foundation repair industry safer and more reliable, utilizing a standard that the industry is more likely to adopt in practice.

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