Tech Talk: CFA Certified Cast-In-Place Foundation Contractor Program
By: Ed Sauter, CFA Executive Director
Part III: Beginning in the summer of 2008, the Concrete Foundations Association (CFA) will unveil a new industry program to certify foundation contractor firms in the residential cast-in-place industry. The previous articles in this six-part series provided a program overview and greater depth regarding the knowledge component of the program. This segment will discuss how the program will be administered, the company-wide requirements for certification, and the reasons the requirements were included in the program. It bears emphasizing that this is a company certification, not an individual certification. While a given number of company employees or owners must have a certain level of education and continuing education, that requirement only leads to a well-rounded company with knowledgeable employees. The CFA company certification program is intended to ensure that companies approved for this designation are not only good foundation contractors, but are also sound businesses.
The program will be run at arm’s length from the CFA. A consultant specializing in certification has been hired as an independent contractor to analyze the qualifications of applicants, verify requirements, grade examinations, and give general guidance to the program. The consultant will also evaluate test questions and review program requirements on a regular basis.
CFA staff will provide oversight of the program’s day-to-day operations and will market its benefits. CFA staff will also develop and administer the education component, including test development and administration, development and updating of reference materials, and receipt of applications.
A separate board, independent of the CFA Board of Directors, comprised of CFA members and other industry-related representatives will make policy recommendations to the CFA Board and provide general oversight and guidance.
The final oversight body is an appeals board. The appeals board furnishes additional protection for the process by providing independent evaluation and review for companies whose application has been denied.
GENERAL COMPANY INFORMATION
Because this is an industry-wide program, it is open to all foundation-contracting companies. CFA members will receive a discount since some of their membership dues are allocated to program administration.
Basic company information required includes the states, counties, cities, or other political subdivisions in which business is conducted. This is important for the CFA as well as the company. The CFA will promote certified companies to builders, code officials, and others in their respective areas; therefore, it is important for the evaluation consultant to know the jurisdictions in which the company will be certified.
Minimum insurance coverage is another company requirement. A CFA-certified contractor is required to maintain and carry in-force, for the duration of the certification period, stipulated minimum amounts of coverage including general liability, employer’s liability, and workman’s compensation insurances. The required minimum coverage is $1 million in combined single limit per occurrence for bodily injury, personal injury and property damage as well as $1 million in completed operations provisions. Before a certification is issued, the contractor must furnish the CFA a certificate verifying such coverage.
Workman’s compensation will be in accordance with the requirements of the state or states in which the contractor conducts business. If the contractor is exempt from the Worker’s Compensation requirements, he is required to submit a letter and evidence of the exemption. Employer’s liability insurance requirements are $100,000 for each occurrence and shall include all state endorsements. The insurance company will be required to notify the CFA of any reduction or other change in coverage including cancellation.
The CFA-certified contractor must also be diligent in his standard business practices. These include timely settlement of debts, resolution of disputes, and customer satisfaction. Failure to meet one or more of the stipulated requirements will not necessarily void or prevent CFA certification but it will result in closer evaluation of the infractions and reasons for the problems. Several questions on the application address these issues in greater depth.
CFA-certified contractors are expected to deliver a high-quality product. In addition to demonstrating knowledge of published industry standards, the certified contractor is required to sign an affidavit certifying that they adhere to the standards of residential foundation construction as spelled forth in the current edition of the CFA’s Standard for Residential Concrete Construction and of the ACI 332 code Requirements for Residential Concrete Construction. They are also required to conform to the current edition of the International Residential Code. If the company operates under a different code or in areas where there is no code enforcement, the above provisions are still applicable unless the provisions of the legal code are more stringent than those listed.
Certification approval also requires submitting a minimum of six references who the applicant has repeating and regular business relationships. Three of the references must be from customers, including builders or general contractors, and three must be with entities who the applicant conducts business. These include ready-mix suppliers, steel fabricators, and other major suppliers. The list must include all contact information, the approximate dollar amount of business conducted with the reference, and the current status of the business relationship. The outside consultant will conduct spot checks with the submitted references to verify the accuracy of the information supplied.
Applicants will be required to list boards, commissions, and other public and private organizations they are involved and their level of involvement. Listing can include governmental bodies, and other trade associations.
While participation in community organizations and other trade associations is not a requisite for approval, it does signify that company personnel has strong interests in the community(ies) where they live and work.
Many foundation contractors perform work other than the construction of foundations. Excavation, waterproofing, and concrete flatwork are quite common in the foundation contractor business. Additionally, many members also own or operate specialized equipment related to these operations. Examples included concrete pumps, boom trucks, conveyers, and excavation equipment. Some of these operations and equipment used require specialized training or licensing.
Evidence of this training and/or licensing must be provided. Since this is a company certification, it is important that CFA-certified companies are properly trained and licensed to perform related operations and operate the equipment they own.
FINANCIAL AND LEGAL INFORMATION
Certification, by its very nature, implies that approved companies uphold certain standards in the execution of their obligations. If the applicant holds licenses required by other jurisdictions or business operations the company performs, those will become part of the CFA certification file for the company. Revocation of licenses will also be evaluated.
Evaluation will also include review of any liens that may exist and legal actions that may have been taken against the applicant. Liens are often unavoidable when conflicts arise, but understanding the nature and reasons for claims, as well as the applicant’s record in resolving claims, will be evaluated. An unresolved lien or legal action will not necessarily disqualify a company for certification, but the company will be evaluated for trends and expediency in resolution of claims.
Financial solvency is also an important part of the process. The CFA is representing that the companies not only can build a good foundation, but that they are also good business people who pay their bills and have the resources to deal with problems and issues.
If you have any comments or suggestions about the requirements or details of the program, make certain you contact either Dan Bromley, CFA Certification Committee chair at (816) 795-0072 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Ed Sauter at (319) 895-6940 or email@example.com to make your ideas known. The next article will cover in depth the safety requirements of a CFA-certified company.
Ed Sauter, firstname.lastname@example.org, is Executive Director of the Concrete Foundations Association and the Concrete Homes Council.