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RE: Foundation Design Without Site-Specific Geotechnical Reports

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I can appreciate Texas strict regulations, but the facts still remain that
other states do not require Geotechnical reports in ALL cases. Here is the
provision from the Uniform Building Code (97) Section 1804:

In this section, the UBC requires that the soil at each building
site be classified (in accordance with Table 18-I-A and UBC
Standard 18-1) "when required by the building official." It is the
intent of the code that the soils be classified whenever alter-
ations are made to a building that will change the bearing pres-
sures on the soil for existing buildings or where additions are
made or new buildings erected which require new foundations.
Under these circumstances, the soils at the site require classifi-
cation, as the new foundations could not otherwise be designed.
Except for those structures of stud-bearing wall construction
which are eligible to use the provisions of Table 18-I-C for foun-
dation design, the code gives the building official authority to re-
quire a soils investigation prepared by an engineer or architect
licensed by the state to practice as such. In most states of the
United States, the soil investigation would be made by a geo-
technical engineer. The building official also has authority to re-
quire such an investigation for sites on which stud-bearing wall
buildings are to be erected where there is any question about the
adequacy and classification of the soils.
On the other hand, the code does not make it mandatory to de-
termine the soils' classification by a soil investigation. For those
structures, usually of limited size and weight, which can utilize
the allowable foundation pressures delineated in Table 18-I-A,
there may not be any need for a foundation investigation. Only
where there is question as to the proper soil classification would
a foundation investigation be required for these lightweight
The potential for seismically induced soil liquefaction and
soil instability must also be investigated in Seismic Zones 3 and
4, with few exceptions. Liquefaction is treated in the same man-
ner as a number of other geotechnical issues. The potential for
such an occurrence should be analyzed by a professional to
assist in the determination of an adequate foundation system.
Where a foundation investigation has been made, the building
official is given authority by the code to require that the geotech-
nical engineer making the investigation submit a written report
of the investigation. Although the language in the first paragraph
of Section 1804.3 seems to imply that a report might not be
required, it is inconceivable that a report of the investigation
would not be required."

I am not an engineer who would turn down a geotechnical report which would
be wonderful for covering my butt. However, unless the building offical
specifically requires OR the building is on a known unusual soils  or
hillside, the geotechnical study is more of the exception rather than the
Now read the last sentence - a statment of opinion in the code
(unusual???)rather than a a mandatory requirement. No, what it means is that
it is simply no so inconceviable as this code author wants to believe. The
final authority rests with the building offical.

Dennis S. Wish, PE

-----Original Message-----
From: Caldwell, Stan [mailto:scaldwell(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 1:43 PM
To: 'SEAINT Listserv'
Subject: Foundation Design Without Site-Specific Geotechnical Reports

I submitted a post on this subject earlier today, but it appears to have
been lost in cyberspace.  Here is another attempt, since this information
might be of interest to many of you.

The Texas PT Board has begun to vigorously enforce their policy that
foundations cannot be designed without site-specific geotechnical reports.
Here are two examples of recent disciplinary actions, excerpted from the
Spring 2000 Texas PE Board Newsletter (
<> ):

Mr. Widjaya Surya Atmadja, P.E., Austin, TX - File D-978 - Mr. Atmadja
allegedly failed to use site specific geotechnical soil studies to prepare a
residential foundation design. Further, statements on the plan sheet that
the design was based upon unconfirmed assumptions about the soil's stability
were misleading and not in keeping with generally accepted engineering
practices. The Board accepted a Consent Order signed by Mr. Atmadja for a
Formal Reprimand and assessed him a $500 administrative penalty.

Mr. Martin Prager, P.E., Dallas, TX - File D-960 - It was alleged that Mr.
Prager issued foundation design plans for a residence that indicated they
were in conformance with Post Tension Institute standards; however, the
design was not based upon a site-specific geotechnical soils report.
Therefore, his designs were misleading and not in keeping with generally
accepted engineering standards or procedures. The design plans bore the
title block of a firm which Board records did not show Mr. Prager was
associated with, suggesting that he may have entered into a business
relationship contrary to Board rules. The Board accepted an Agreed Board
Order signed by Mr. Prager and his attorney for a two-year probated
suspension of his Texas engineer license contingent upon his agreement to
pay a $5,000 administrative penalty. Mr. Prager also agreed to inform the
Board of each engineering activity he performs during the probation period.

How many of you design building foundations and/or civil structures without
site-specific geotechnical reports?  How many of you do this in Texas?


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas (Hockey Heaven), Texas