The Pennsylvania Building Code Needs You!

Seriously.  We need you.  We, those who want to improve the health, safety, and energy security of all Pennsylvanians, need you.  In order to update the Pennsylvania building code from model codes published in 2009 to the current 2015 version – we need you to submit a public comment to the Review and Advisory Council (RAC) by FEBRUARY 11th

Uncle Sam Wants Your Ideas: Wikimedia Commons

Just who will be impacted by building codes?  Manufactures you know that updated codes are the only way to safely incorporate new materials.  Solar advocates, you’re surely excited that updated codes adjust the setback allowing for more solar on a roof.  Homeowners are yenning to buy a quality home that ensures health and energy efficiency.  Plumbers, we could talk about how Philadelphia still uses cast iron. And anyone that acknowledges the dangers of climate change, let’s remember that 1/3 of energy usage comes from buildings.

If building codes seem like an easy win, why are we asking so many of you to comment?  Well, some industry professionals take issue with the rise in cost associated with better buildings.  Because yes – it is more expensive to build a comfortable, draft free building  – instead of a shack.  The hike in price is small, equivalent to a granite counter top or hardwood upgrade, and homeowners recoup their costs quickly through lower utility bills. And research shows that consumers are willing to pay for higher performing houses.

Now that you are aching to submit a comment, here’s how to have your voice heard.   Public comments are being accepted

WHEN: 1/12/2018 until 2/11/2018

                HOW:  Link to UCC site announcing call for comments AND form to Submit your comment

WHAT:  Well, honestly, say what is important to you and your industry about updating codes.  But if you need some more information or ideas:

When you click on the comment form, you’ll notice that it is asking for specific comments based on the Code Change Number.  And while it is important to know what each change will do, it is crucial to look at the amendments as a whole.  The new codes come from The International Code Council (ICC), a body which investigates, researches, and votes on building codes to be adopted worldwide.  When the ICC pursues an update, they release an integrated system which ensures compatibility across all changes.

To highlight the danger of cherry picking individual reforms, let’s visit a fundamental safety concern: sprinklers. In 2009, Pennsylvania excluded residential sprinklers from adoption based on cost concerns. At the same time, they adopted provisions that allowed for more flammable building materials, a provision which was based on implementation of residential sprinklers.  The result is homes that burn astonishingly quickly, but without the added safety measures (residential sprinklers) to counteract the material downgrade.

So please do you and your neighbors a favor and encourage the RAC to adopt all of the 2015 ICC code changes.  It’ll likely make your job easier – especially if you design and build in multiple states, but you’ll also be protecting the health, safety, and property of your fellow Pennsylvanians. And if you’re really into the weeds, feel free to submit specific comments on your priority changes.

Clarification:  When submitting comments with the comment form you can ignore some of the fields (i.e. the ICC Code Change Number); code section numbers only need to be included if identifying something to be omitted or edited.  General comments supporting adoption of the codes as a whole will be useful.  If your main concern is energy efficiency and climate change, referencing the International Energy Conservation Code would be appropriate.

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