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Foundation Pinning

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I recently turned down a request to work on a foundation underpinning project in Alexandria, Virginia (several houses in a subdivision built on mud from the Potomac, fill, and who knows what else.)
There were  estimates from three different contractors on the number and location of piles required.  These estimates were completely different, by like orders of magnitude.  The project was already headed for litigation,  and some of the parties involved did not have pleasant personalities, so I backed out.
But I am curious,  in locations where this is commonly done (Houston comes to mind),  what is the accepted procedure for determining the pile placement and particularly the number of piles.   Does the design have to be done by a registered engineer?
Does it make a different whether the foundation is post-tensioned?
Gail Kelley