Updated Buildings Codes in Pennsylvania

Exciting news for Pennsylvania: 2015 ICC Codes will be effective (in almost their entirety) on October 1, 2018!

There were certainly some compromises made, but compared to the stalemate that has plagued PA building codes, this is amazing! Well, what do we mean in almost their entirety? This is a document of the Review and Advisory Council recommendations that will become the Uniform Construction Code on October 1st. (If you need a refresher on why we are so enthusiastic about building codes and the process in PA, here’s a reminder).

Construction worker standing on scaffold thermally insulating house facade with glass wool and black foil.

Did you check out that document… and not know what 2015 IRC E3901.7 refers to? (Foyers.)

Well, we’ve gone through and noted what each amendment or section not adopted refers to. I assume that most of our stakeholders are more interested in the energy efficiency aspects, but if you want to see what amendment/change refers to, check here. But to briefly sum up the amendments/deletions impact on energy efficiency:

  • The airtightness requirement for residential buildings has been relaxed: from a requirement of 3 Air Changes per Hour (ACH) to 5 ACH. This is a pretty significant loss, as air leakage of a building envelope has a major impact on the energy performance of the building. (Never mind that increased air flow through an insulated building envelope can also result in mold and moisture issues – hopefully relaxing this requirement does not create problems.)
  • The required R value of wall insulation may be reduced from R20 to R18 if the stud spacing is increased (as reducing the total number of studs reduces thermal bridging caused by the studs and increases the amount of cavity insulation). Meh- not sure on the overall energy impact of this amendment, but not crazy significant.
  • Lastly, the energy minimum required energy performance as determine by the Energy Rating Index (ERI) was relaxed: for Climate Zone 5 (much of PA) the required score changed from 55 to 61. On the ERI scale 0 is net zero home and 100 is 2006 IECC. So, clearly not a move that is in the best interest of homeowners that have to pay the energy bills – but still better than what we currently have in PA.

So besides energy, another good thing about update building codes: there is now a clear definition of grey and black water and different requirements for handling each. So there is now clear guidance within the state on the handling of graywater reuse systems (i.e. using rain water to flush toilets).

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