State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

For state's building code, consensus that review requires more time

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 24, 2013 7:44 PM
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The statewide panel tasked with reviewing suggested updates to the Pennsylvania building code is asking for an extension.

Every three years, a 19-member panel considers changes to the codes that govern all aspects of building construction. Last year the commission threw out all the nearly 1,000 suggested updates.

Frank Thompson, a home builder and the chairman of the Review and Advisory Commission, said the rejection was partly because the group couldn't get its work done in the time allotted.

"We had a one-year timeframe, which is not enough for the council to do its work," Thompson said, testifying at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

Lawmakers are considering giving the panel two years, and say they'd like to provide additional resources, like dedicated staff.

Joe Mingioni, with the Pennsylvania Builders Association, was also on the panel when it rejected all suggested code updates last year. He said it was more of a policy move than a decision against each code update on its merits.

"We did have a chance to look at them individually, but I think the sentiment was growing that this is all happening too fast and we need to stop this - we need to slow this down," Mingioni said. "Because we did not have enough time to review those thousand code changes, and it was daunting at that point."

The reason the commission was able to reject code updates en masse in the first place was because a 2011 law made updates harder to approve. The debate rages on over how to fix that.

Builders say code updates should be hard to adopt, because they're costly and unnecessary. Thompson testified before lawmakers that architects, engineers, and building code officials agree. Electrical product and chemical industry groups, however, say the updates are necessary for safety and energy-saving reasons.

The same Senate proposal that would give the RAAC more time to review code updates would reverse the 2011 law, making it easier to adopt suggested updates to the building code.

Sen. John Gordner, chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee hearing testimony on the proposal, said the bill would likely see further changes.


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