Advocacy On the Boards | April 2021

“Advocacy On the Boards” is a monthly update from the AIA Pennsylvania Government Affairs Team to inform members of the great work “on the boards” ensuring architects are at the policymaker’s table to affect positive and equitable social, environmental, and economic outcomes for the profession and the commonwealth. This work includes lobbying state lawmakers, their staff, and other government officials and agencies to provide architects’ guidance on policies that impact the built environment and, in turn, the health, safety, and welfare of all Pennsylvanians. AIA Pennsylvania members’ technical expertise and experience are critical to the priority issues as charted by the Government Affairs team and informed by the membership’s feedback each two-year legislative session cycle.

Get the latest on the issues moving through the legislative process that AIA Pennsylvania worked on throughout April and continues to monitor and pursue.

On the Boards | Legal Reform

Action Needed NOW: Reduction of Statute of Repose for Architects and Engineers in Pennsylvania
Architects, engineers, and contractors practicing in the Commonwealth face a substantial degree of liability exposure for property damages and other construction claims. Without legislation to protect design professionals from unlimited liability, it might be possible to sue an architect for an injury suffered in or around a building designed twelve years prior. 

Pennsylvania is currently one of only six states to exceed a 10-year term for a statute of repose. The Statute of Repose in Pennsylvania is 12 years for construction projects. Often, after six years, issues that arise from completed projects are due more to the owner’s and tenant’s failure to maintain the property rather than faulty design.

To address this issue, Senator Laughlin has circulated a co-sponsor memo to reduce the Statute of Repose in Pennsylvania from 12 years to 6 years to be in line with nationwide legislative and industry standards. 

State legislators must hear from you why reducing the Statute of Repose in Pennsylvania is vital to the health of the industry and the architecture profession. Please contact your state senator and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation by filling in some basic information and hitting send on a pre-populated message.

Take action >

On the Boards | Building Codes

Timeline for New Code Adoption in Pennsylvania
The UCC Review & Advisory Council (RAC) has recently completed its review of the 2018 International Code Council (ICC) Codes, in line with a 4.5-year cycle which includes an opt-in voting process. This means the RAC votes on each code section and requires a 2/3 majority to adopt each section.

The final report, including a list of the codes and modifications to the published 2018 ICC does, as voted on by the RAC in accordance with Act 45 of 1999 from the RAC will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry shortly. Once the RAC’s report is delivered, the department will have 9 months to promulgate the regulations (new codes). With that, the anticipated new codes will tentatively be implemented around January of 2022. 

Bill Exempting Agriculture Buildings from the Uniform Construction Code Passes in the Senate
AIA Pennsylvania is neutral on SB 191. AIA Pennsylvania applauds the efforts local family farms are taking to preserve and adapt their historic barns for contemporary uses. Historic structures present some unique challenges to life safety and accessibility, often presenting conditions that would not be considered as compliant by today’s building codes, but which are an integral part of the historic structure.

Optimally, the preservation of a historic structure is best served if there is a use for that structure. Continued use of structures through renovation or through change of use is an important component of preservation, sustainability, and energy conservation—reducing the waste produced by demolition and the energy associated with new construction. The important consideration in this equation is the life safety and accessibility of the public using the preserved structure—for any use.  

 To lessen the likelihood of any potential hazards, AIA Pennsylvania worked with the prime sponsor to amend this bill last session. We believe that the current language in SB 191 will incorporate technical requirements for basic life safety and accessibility. SB 191 references the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) which provides the most flexible means for historic buildings to meet necessary health and safety requirements while retaining their integrity and providing opportunities for continued or new uses.

 Generally, AIA Pennsylvania opposes exemptions from the Uniform Construction Code (UCC). We recognize there are two established approaches to address the intended expanded uses of the barns:  

  • One is to apply the International Existing Buildings Code (IEBC) as much as possible and pursue any appeals with the local Building Code Appeals Board.
  • The broader approach is to allow the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s UCC Review and Advisory Council (RAC) to consider amending sections of the IEBC to best suit the requested modification to the code.

As of March 24, 2021, SB191 was referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee.

On the Boards | High-Performance Building

Support Healthier Built Environments: Contact Your Senator to Request Support of the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) Expansion
Act 30 of 2018 established the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. This innovative financing program provides business property owners access to low-interest, long-term loans for clean energy and clean water projects repaid as property tax to benefit the community. Currently, owners of existing or new properties zoned commercial, industrial, and agricultural are eligible for C-PACE financing. 

Senator Yudichack has introduced a co-sponsor memo proposing enhancements to the C-PACE program that would expand eligibility to the following:

  • Multifamily commercial buildings
  • Indoor air improvements (e.g. COVID-19 mitigation), and
  • Resiliency improvements

Reach out to your Senator to make the ask to co-Sponsor the memo introduced on 3/25/21 by Senator John T. Yudichak to expand the C-PACE Program to:

  • encourage in-demand multi-family development
  • support healthier environments that mitigate the spread of COVID-19
  • boost the Commonwealth’s economies

Follow the link below to input your home address to identify and contact your State Senator.

Contact your state senator >

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Update

AIA Pennsylvania believes that entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a step in the right direction to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and any proceeds realized can be reinvested in the Commonwealth. For these reasons, AIA Pennsylvania has supported Pennsylvania entering into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. As a result, AIA Pennsylvania was invited to sit on three Department of Environmental Protection Roundtables. We participated in conversations on the Residential Energy Efficiency, Commercial and Industrial, and the Clean and Renewable Energy conversations about potential investment opportunities for the proceeds from participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Internally, AIA PA facilitated a joint town hall meeting for our Housing and Community Development Committee, chaired by Ken Doyno, our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, chaired by Marc Mondor, and our Committee on the Environment, chaired by Brian Smiley to inform our feedback and suggestions to DEP. 

On the Boards | School Construction

Prototypical School Design Bill Dropped
AIA Pennsylvania is closely monitoring, HB 1157, providing for a prototypical school facility design clearinghouse. As of April 16, 2021, it was referred to the House Education Committee.

On the Boards | Public Work

High-Performance DGS Projects Unveiled
The GreenGov Council recently released its second annual report, outlining progress towards goals in 2020 initially established with Governor Wolf’s Climate Changed Executive Order and supported by stakeholder, AIA Pennsylvania, back in 2019. Goals include obtaining at least 40 percent of electricity from in-state clean energy sources; reducing energy use at least 3 percent annually; and attaining energy high-performance standards in building construction, lease, or renovation. 

The 2020 report details seventeen new buildings or major renovation facilities projects in the Department of General Services (DGS) construction or renovation queue that are incorporating the Executive Order’s high-performance building criteria into design and construction.

Pennsylvania Makes Solar Energy Commitment
At the end of March, Governor Wolf announced a major clean energy initiative that will produce nearly 50 percent of state government’s electricity through seven new solar energy arrays totaling 191-megawatts to be built around the state. As part of the GreenGov initiative, Pennsylvania PULSE (Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy) will go into operation on January 1, 2023. The project is the largest solar commitment by any government in the U.S. announced to date.