Pa. building code review panel may be in line for modifications

    A state commission reviewing updates to Pennsylvania’s building codes may be in for a few tweaks in its operating procedure.


    A 2011 law shifted the process for the panel, making it easier to reject than accept code updates, such as energy efficiency and safety requirements.

    Subsequently, the panel rejected all the most recent round of code updates, citing an inability to find consensus on some and an accumulation of too many costly updates over time.

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    State Rep. Bill Keller, D-Philadelphia, says he wants to fix what looks like a broken commission.

    “You just can’t just say, ‘We’re never going to adopt the new codes.’ And that’s the way it looks like it’s going,” he said Tuesday.

    The chair of the review commission says he’d like to strike a balance so that the commission is able to approve more code updates, but he still wants the updates to face a higher burden for approval than rejection.

    Frank Thompson, a residential builder himself, described it as a less “all-or-nothing” approach in code adoption.

    “And what I’d like to see in 2015 is probably not adopt everything and probably adopt a lot of things,” he said.

    Regular updates to the codes mean higher costs for builders, he said.

    At the hearing, a code expert, a safety coordinator for a union, and an electrical manufacturer argued the opposite, saying regular code updates are essential for safety and are carefully vetted so as not to put undue costs onto builders.

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