Serving Texas

Texas A&M construction science
team drafts residential building,
performance standards for Texas

The Texas Residential Commission on Jan. 12 adopted a set of standards that will — for the first time in Texas — detail how the components of a newly built home should perform under warranty. Faculty from the Department of Construction Science at Texas A&M's College of Architecture assisted with the development and review of the new standards.

“I believe the commission chose us to create the standards because A&M has a reputation for having the largest and most comprehensive construction science department in the state,” said Joe Horlen, assistant professor of construction science and co-principal investigator for the project, which was funded by a $45,000 grant from the commission.

The TRCC is a relatively new state agency created by the 78th Legislature to provide a neutral dispute resolution process for Texas homeowners and the residential construction industry. The commission also provides ongoing education for homeowners and builders. House Bill 730, which established the commission, requires Texas homebuilders and remodelers to register with the state, mandates the registration of new homes and renovation projects exceeding $20,000, and provides for the adoption of limited warranties to which the new performance standards will be applied.

The rules on warranties and building and performance standards will apply to home builders and remodelers who do interior renovations exceeding $20,000 or that change the size of the home's living space and will be effective for construction that begins after June 1, 2005. The warranties will be one year for workmanship and materials; two years for plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning delivery systems and 10 years for major structural components of the home.

“These landmark standards are key to the Texas Residential Construction Commission's goal for all home buyers in our state to be satisfied, confident homeowners,” said Stephen Thomas, executive director of the commission. “Homeowners will know what performance to expect from their new home or remodeling project, while builders will be able to both assure and improve the quality of construction.”

“These standards are also important,”he continued, “because they will be applied by the Texas Residential Construction Commission when it considers disputes between the two parties under the new state-sponsored inspection and dispute resolution process.”

In developing the standards, Horlen said the A&M team examined existing guidelines, including those established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the International Residential Code. They also analyzed complaints filed with the TRCC to identify areas that were not covered or in need of improvement.

“This has been a great opportunity for the Department of Construction Science to showcase its relevance, expertise and dedication to the construction industry,” said, Debra Ellis, a department lecturer who served with Horlen as co-principal investigator on the A&M residential standards team. “I believe these standards will give homeowners a sense of security, that their biggest lifetime investment is protected by regulations intended to address, if not preempt, problems typically seen in residential construction.”

Other construction science faculty playing an integral role in the standards project were John Bryant, who examined plumbing, heating, air conditioning and ventilation system requirements, and Skip Coody, who worked on structural components guidelines. One graduate and four undergraduate students also contributed to the project.

In addition to the residential standards initiative, the TRCC awarded the A&M team with a $30,000 grant to develop a checklist and maintenance manual for homeowners that, Horlen said, will ultimately be assessable online through an interactive Web site.

The A&M team has also submitted a proposal to the TRCC for developing certification procedures for the agency's continuing education and certification courses.

“The relationship between the construction science department and the TRCC has been mutually beneficial and it appears that it will continue for some time,” Horlen said. “The research we have performed is directly in line with the classes we teach and it complements my research agenda. At the same time, we are providing a valuable service to the state of Texas.”

— The End —

January 10, 2005

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