PA Department of L&I Offers More Info on New Sprinkler Law

June 2011Newsletters In the Zone

On April 25, 2011, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law Act 1 of 2011 (HB 377, PN 1520 ), which makes a number of changes to Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code.

In an effort to clarify the impacts of Act 1 on various questions of permit timing and provision enforcement, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry issued a summary document to aid understanding. The Department’s May 5th statement includes the following:

The sprinkler requirement for one- and two-family dwellings is repealed, and the repeal is made retroactive to January 1, 2011. See Section 901(g).

  • Where building permits have been issued after January 1, 2011, and a sprinkler system was required, the system will only have to be installed if the owner requests the builder include the installation as part of the construction.
  • An amended building permit application may or may not be required. Check with the building code official having jurisdiction.
  • Municipalities with legally enacted local residential sprinkler requirements (adopted in a local building code ordinance in effect on July 1, 1999, or adopted per the Section 503 amendment process after the municipality elected to administer and enforce the UCC) may continue to enforce these requirements.
  • The automatic sprinkler requirement for townhouses (that took effect on January 1, 2010) remains in effect.
  • Section 901(g) obligates builders to provide certain info regarding sprinklers to customers before entering into construction contracts.

All new one- and two-family dwellings not sprinklered must comply with new fire protection requirements for floors, effective April 25, 2011. See Section 901 (h).

  • Since this provision is not made retroactive, this should be imposed on all new one- and two-family dwellings that must comply with the International Residential Code 2009 and for which application for a building permit is made on or after April 25, 2011.

The wall bracing requirements in the International Residential Code 2009, in Sections R602.10 through R602.12.1.6, are deleted and replaced with the wall bracing requirements found in the International Residential Code 2006 (in Sections R602.10 through R602.11.3), effective April 25, 2011. See Section 901(i).

  • Since this provision is not made retroactive, this should be imposed on all new one- and two-family dwellings that must comply with the International Residential Code 2009 and for which application for a building permit is made on or after April 25, 2011.

After Act 1 was signed into law, the Pennsylvania Association of Building Code Officials (PABCO) sent to its members the following interpretative guidance, which the Department agrees with:

For sprinkler requirements in one- and two-family dwellings:

  • If permit was applied for prior to April 25 but not yet issued, sprinkler requirements do not apply.
  • If permit was issued prior to April 25 and construction has not begun, sprinkler requirements do not apply.
  • If permit was issued prior to April 25, construction was begun but sprinkler systems were not yet installed, sprinkler systems are not required to be installed. The building code official MAY require amended plans to be submitted (as builts).

For fire floor requirements in one- and two-family dwellings without sprinkler systems installed:

  • If permit was applied for prior to April 25 but not yet issued, fire floor requirements DO NOT APPLY.
  • If permit was issued prior to April 25, fire floor requirements DO NOT APPLY, regardless of whether construction has begun.
  • If permit was applied for on or after April 25, fire floor requirements DO APPLY.

For wall bracing requirements in one- and two-family dwellings:

  • If permit was applied for prior to April 25 but not yet issued, 2009 IRC wall bracing requirements will apply.
  • If permit was issued prior to April 25, 2009 IRC wall bracing requirements apply whether construction has begun or not.
  • If permit was applied for on or after April 25, 2006 IRC wall bracing requirements will apply.

Act 1 also substantially changes the triennial code adoption process. On May 17, 2011, the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center conducted a webinar outlining the major changes to Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code. The presentation as well as materials can be viewed at their web site.

For more information, please contact Kimberly A. Freimuth at 215.918.3627 or [email protected].

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