Revisions to Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code Review Process Proposed

October 2013Articles In the Zone

Both chambers of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly recently held public hearings on separate bills seeking to amend the state’s Construction Code Act in different ways. Senate Bill 1023 (McIlhinney, R-Bucks) would change the code review standard. House Bill 1209 (Harkins, D-Erie) would separate the commercial construction code from the residential construction code adoption process.

The Construction Code Act creates the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and the method by which the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and the Pennsylvania UCC Review and Advisory Council (RAC) adopt statewide building codes. The Act has been subjected to numerous changes over the past several legislative sessions.

At its core, the Construction Code Act requires the RAC to review and recommend to the Department of Labor and Industry those changes published by the International Code Council (ICC) every three years that should be incorporated into the state’s building code. Currently, the RAC must affirmatively approve any ICC changes to the building code by a two-thirds vote - otherwise the change is rejected.

Both bills stem, in part, out of concern that no changes contained in the 2012 ICC codes were recommended by the RAC and, therefore, were not incorporated in the statewide building code.

Sen. McIlhinney’s legislation would reverse the current language by which the RAC makes decisions. It would allow all proposed code changes to be adopted unless two-thirds of the RAC votes them out. It would also direct the RAC to re-review the 2012 ICC code changes under this new standard. Additionally, Senate Bill 1023 provides an extra year for the review and adoption of code changes in order to permit adequate time for meaningful debate.

The legislation introduced by Representative Harkin would separate the commercial construction code adoption process from the residential process. If this legislation were to become law, the RAC would review the ICC’s commercial construction code revisions and recommend those commercial items that should be excluded from adoption, as distinguished from the residential code, which would still require a two-thirds vote to adopt any changes. Furthermore, when the RAC submits its report to the Department of Labor and Industry, House Bill 1209 provides that the Department may opt to exclude any or all of the commercial provisions recommended to be omitted by the RAC during the final regulatory promulgation process. House Bill 1209 would require the new commercial codes be adopted by the end of the same year they issued by the ICC.

Both bills have received public hearings in their respective legislative Committees, but have not yet been scheduled for a vote.

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