Sherman discusses new engineering requirements for single-family homes

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Sherman Council Member Josh Stevenson talks regarding a proposed change that would require new residential construction to submit an engineered framing plan.

As expected growth approaches Sherman, staff and local leaders are considering new building requirements that would streamline the process and ensure  safety and a high standard for new homes.  The City Council is discussing a proposed new regulation that would require builders submit engineered framing plans for new homes.

Members of the council discussed the proposed change for the first time Monday night as an informational item. The council took no action and instead directed staff to bring back more information on the impacts that change would have from a city standpoint.

"What we are coming to you today to discuss is that some of our peer cities require engineered plans for the framing of buildings for all new single family as well," said Rob Rae, director of development services. "They have codified this requirements in their ordinances."

The request was put forward by council member Josh Stevenson, who  professionally does about 7,000 engineering inspections in a year. Many of these inspections are done in cities to the south that have seen significant growth in recent years.

"The reason I brought this to the city in the first place is that we are going to experience a high rate of growth and a lot of builders that build houses build the same houses in other cities," he said, noting that homes built in cities that require these plans are often built with more safety features.

Conversation focus primarily on hold downs and sheer walls that protect a structure during heavy winds and similar heavy weather. As an example, Stevenson showed the council pictures of a collapsed home built elsewhere in North Texas. All of the framing had been done to the new home except for the sheer walls.

"Even with brand new, solid lumber modern-frame houses, engineering design and sheer wall makes those houses much, much stronger," Stevenson said.

Other members of the council voiced their concern about the proposed changes, noting that the homes built in Sherman still are built to code, which would make many of these changes unnecessary. Other concerns included the ultimate cost to the homeowner for this requirement.

Chief Building Official Larry Bollier said the International Residential Code that the city uses does require wall bracing for all new homes. However, it does not require engineered plans and instead offers 16 methods for accomplishing the requirement. With this many methods, it would save time to have the builder submit the plans of how the bracing was done.

This will help city staff  save time on each new home, especially when the city's new planned developments start moving forward with construction. With these developments moving forward, Stevenson said the city is on track to see more building permits issued than ever before.

The council ultimately asked city staff to collect information on how much time this could save staff if it was required.