Pennsylvania updates building codes for first time in 10 years
- The commonwealth of Pennsylvania has updated its Uniform Construction Code for the first time in a decade, according to Contractor. The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted Sept. 13 to adopt almost all of the provisions of the 2015 International Building Codes (I-Codes), and the changes became effective Sept. 29 upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
- I-Codes are divided up into 15 individual codes — e.g. fire, mechanical, building, existing building, residential, et cetera. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council voted to adopt only 16 provisions from the 2015 I-Codes after deciding three years earlier not to adopt any new regulations from the 2012 edition. As a result, the state legislature ordered the commission to conduct a full review of the 2015 I-Codes. The resulting changes included the adoption of some codes in full, like fire, plumbing and mechanical, but other 2015 I-Codes, like building and residential, were approved with some deletions or revisions. For example, the commonwealth voted to add the definition of "framing factor" as the fraction of the total building component area that is structural framing to its incorporation of the 2015 Residential Code and elected not to incorporate the 2015 Performance Code at all.
- The International Code Council updates its I-Codes every three years, and the most recent version is the 2018 edition. The city of Philadelphia has incorporated the 2018 I-Codes into its building regulations, and the council also voted to include a few 2018 provisions in this latest code update as well.
In the U.S., according to the International Code Council, the International Building Code is in use in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., as well as U.S. territories. In addition, most states use all or some of the other I-Codes too.
In a controversial move, the ICC will vote this fall about whether to adopt mass timber high-rise construction codes. Proposed code changes, which have already been approved by the ICC Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings, would allow wood high-rises up to 18 stories. The committee acknowledged that there was some opposition, particularly form the Portland Cement Association, to allowing such construction, but attempted to alleviate fears by making assurances that its decisions were based on stringent analyses and fire testing, as well as clarifying of the difference between standard — and highly flammable — "stick-built" construction and mass timber, which has a much higher fire-resistive rating.
If the ICC does end up incorporating mass timber high-rise regulations into the I-Codes, just like in Pennsylvania, states are under no obligation to adopt them. Oregon, however, has already embraced tall wood construction and has developed its own codes allowing it.
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