Update on Building Codes in PA 

Update on Building Codes in PA                                                                                                December 13, 2017

By Al Comly, AIA, AIA Pennsylvania Board Member, Building Codes Subcommittee Chair

Act 36 of 2017 (revisions to the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and the Review and Advisory Council (RAC)) was signed by Governor Wolf on October 25, 2017.  Fifteen pages of text have many implications on how the UCC will function going forward, including:

  • The UCC RAC now has three AIA Pennsylvania members appointed by Governor Tom Wolf; Maureen Guttman, AIA (Commercial  Architect), Joseph A. Lavalle AIA, MCP (Township Elected Official), and Charles C. Coltharp, AIA, LEED AP (Architect).
  • The UCC has the potential to be advanced to use the 2015 ICC codes as the baseline.
  • Refining the operation of the RAC to put it back into its intended role of evaluating changes to the model codes for use in the Commonwealth
  • Allowing the City of Philadelphia to advance to the 2018 code package—potentially including the ICC based plumbing code. The Residential Code is not included in this advance, however.
  • Creating a mechanism for the RAC to move forward with future editions of the ICC codes, but on a time frame that will have the UCC at least one cycle behind the most current ICC edition (in 2021, PA will advance to the 2018 package, with Philadelphia staying on the 2018 and being consistent with the remaining part of the Commonwealth).

The Update Legislation has also set October 1, 2018, as the date for the adoption of the updated UCC based on the 2015 code package.  The RAC met Wednesday, December 13, 2017 to take the first step toward meeting that aggressive schedule.  The RAC has established its strategy for addressing this change and has organized subcommittees to carry out the work.

AIA PA has been involved in the process through every step to date, but we now need to expand our efforts to include those of architects across the Commonwealth.  We encourage you all to be involved actively, so we can get a code that provides us with the appropriate technical and code support for our work.  So, we need to do the following:

  • Submit comments to the RAC. The RAC will review all comments received.  That does not guarantee inclusion, but without submitting a comment, or supporting identified changes (these are noted in the margins of the model codes with a vertical black line), we have no say in the matter.  Look back to 2012 as well as 2015.  Any previously submitted comments are not available to the RAC at this time.  They will act on comments received during the comment period.
  • Comment period—for the RAC The comment period is expected to open in mid-January and close in mid-February 2018.  We will provide updates when we get more detailed information.
  • Comment period—for Philadelphia This comment period is open now—until the end of December 31, 2017.  Go to the Phila.gov website for specifics
  • Remember… The changes to the UCC do not include accessibility.  That is handled by the Accessibility Advisory Board.  But energy efficiency and life safety systems have changed dramatically since the 2009 edition.  We need to support these updates
  • Attend RAC Board Meetings to support these much-needed changes. Other industries are always there.  We need to be there as well—after all, we are the ones responsible for the use of these codes. Scheduled RAC meetings can be found here. 

AIA-PA and the Building Codes Sub-committee will continue to follow the progress of the revisions and will endeavor to keep our members up-to-date.