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Pier and grade beam foundation systems

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To all:

I have a general question regarding a foundation system for residential
wood structures founded on a pier and grade beam foundation system.

A college of mine has received a plan check comment from a locale building
official stating that the pier and grade beam system should be considered a
reinforced concrete frame structure and designed per the requirements of
section 1921 of the 1994 Uniform Building Code. 

The standard of care for the area has always been to use an 8" x 18" or 24"
deep concrete grade beam with #3 ties and 2 #5 bars top and bottom. The
beam reinforcing varies per the vertical load. Typically the piers are
spaced at eight to twelve feet on center.

The grade beams are tied to the piers with four #5 bars from the grade beam
to the top of the pier.

The piers are reinforced with six number five bars and #3 ties at 10" o.c.
with 4 #3 ties at two inches o.c. at the top of the pier.

So the question is should the pier and grade beam system be considered a
frame system a be detailed per the requirements of chapter 21?

If the consensus is no, how does one confront the building official? (There
is a board of appeals)

My college has called the ICBO and they do not offer any help.
Calls to ACI have been relatively unresponsive and they try to defer the
question to others.
(makes you want to be a member Ha!!!!)

Have a call into EERI to discuss the project but no return phone calls as
of yet.

So does any one have any comments?\

John Buchanan