Building energy codes that require increased energy efficiency are one of the most effective mechanisms for reducing energy consumption of our building stock. It has been stated that building energy codes are the “quickest, cheapest and cleanest way to improve energy efficiency in the building sector.”
Unfortunately, if the January 18, 2012 recommendations of the Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (the “Advisory Council”) are adopted by the Pennsylvania Legislature, Pennsylvania will not adopt the 2012 updates to the International Construction Code (ICC). This means that much of Pennsylvania’s new construction for the foreseeable future will be less energy efficient than “state-of-the-art” construction, placing owners and tenants at a competitive disadvantage compared to forward-thinking neighboring jurisdictions like New York City, Washington DC, and Maryland. Since the current 2009 building codes will remain in place until at least 2018, Pennsylvania may miss out on the environmental and financial benefits of the 2012 International Construction Code, and perhaps even the 2015 code updates.
Since the Uniform Construction Code was enacted in 1999, Pennsylvania has been a national leader in adopting up-to-date building and energy codes for commercial buildings. In December, 2009, Pennsylvania adopted the 2009 International Construction Code, the most recently updated ICC as of the writing of this alert, which includes the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
The International Construction Code is updated every three years, so the next version of the model codes is ICC-2012. The Advisory Council is comprised of nineteen representatives of the construction industry and local government appointed by the governor and examines the ICC revisions based on the impact on the health, safety and welfare of the public, the economic and financial impact, and technical feasibility.
On January 18, 2012, the Advisory Council voted to recommend that the Pennsylvania legislature reject the 2012 International Construction Codes in their entirely, except for a few provisions regarding accessibility for the disabled. If the Advisory Council’s recommendations are adopted, the 2009 International Construction Code will remain in place until at least the next code evaluation cycle.
The Advisory Council also voted to recommend that the revision cycle for the Pennsylvania Construction Code be extended from three years, consistent with the international model code update schedule, to six years. If both the rejection of the 2012 codes and the extension of the code revision cycle are enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature, the 2009 codes will be in place until at least 2018.