New State Legislative Session, New Building Codes Battle

February 2011Newsletters In the Zone

The clock may have run out during Pennsylvania’s 2009-2010 state legislative session for efforts to delay the 2011 implementation of residential sprinkler mandates (see House Bill 1196 ), but, with a newly seated General Assembly comes renewed efforts to remove onerous building code provisions.

State Senator Jake Corman (R-Centre) and State Representative Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) have begun circulating co-sponsorship memos in the Senate and House , respectively, seeking support to amend Pennsylvania’s Construction Code Act (Act 45 of 1999 ) and reform the Commonwealth’s Uniform Construction Code content and adoption process.

While specific legislative language has not yet been introduced by either state legislator, their co-sponsorship memos indicate the direction they intend to take. Between the two bills, efforts will be made to permanently remove various code provisions found in the 2009 International Residential Code. Namely, both bills seek to repeal the requirement for sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings. Additionally, Rep. Oberlander lists other code provisions to be targeted for deletion, including, in part, wall bracing and dryer duct length requirements.

Beyond the simple repeal of onerous and unnecessary building code provisions, both legislative proposals target a comprehensive reform of the code adoption process in Pennsylvania. In an effort to allow a more consensus-based approach to code promulgation, the legislators intend to remove the automatic adoption provision of the triennial codes and replace it with a more thorough and deliberative process. Such a process would include a detailed study of any new building codes, public hearings around the state and subjecting any code revisions to a full regulatory review process in the creation of a Pennsylvania-specific building code.

Currently, besides Pennsylvania, only California and Maryland have mandates for sprinkler requirements for one- and two-family dwellings.

For more information, please contact Kimberly A. Freimuth at 215.918.3627 or kfreimuth@foxrothschild.com.