State Law Signed Today Empowers City  to Require Safer and More Energy-Efficient Construction

PHILADELPHIA- The City of Philadelphia today took a substantial step forward in its efforts to ensure that buildings in Philadelphia meet high standards for safety and quality.  Legislation signed into law this afternoon by Governor Tom Wolf authorizes Philadelphia, for the first time, to independently adopt the most up-to-date set of building codes available. The 2018 International Codes were released earlier this month by the International Code Council (ICC), an association of over 64,000 members dedicated to developing model codes and standards for safe, sustainable, and resilient structures.  ICC updates its model building codes on a three-year-cycle to incorporate advances in engineering, materials, construction science, and safety.

Councilman Bobby Henon applauded the enactment of the state legislation. “The 2018 ICC Codes will make Philadelphia safer and better protected from man-made and natural disasters,” said the Councilman. “Updating the city’s energy-efficiency standards means improved sustainability.”

Modernizing construction standards and materials through the 2018 ICC Codes may also help drive down insurance costs. Codes reflecting the state-of-the-art will assure a higher level of building safety and quality, potentially playing a role in attracting business and investment to Philadelphia.

Before the legislation was enacted, state government had the sole authority to adopt updated building codes, and on a statewide basis only. The new legislation creates an exception for Philadelphia to adopt the 2018 ICC Codes with respect to commercial construction.  Because Pennsylvania never adopted the updated ICC Codes released in 2012 and in 2015, the 2009 Codes are currently in full effect in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth.

“Because the state is several Code cycles behind in regulating commercial buildings,” explained L&I Commissioner David Perri, “Philadelphia has been unable to benefit from many significant improvements in construction practices and materials for almost a decade.”

To become law in Philadelphia, the 2018 ICC Codes must be adopted via a City Council ordinance.  To successfully integrate the 2018 Codes with the Philadelphia Code, local amendments enacted since the adoption of the 2009 Codes must be compared provision-by-provision. Exceptional attention to detail will be required throughout the drafting process.  References to building codes that appear throughout the Philadelphia Code also must be updated to ensure that they remain accurate.

Councilman Henon’s office and L&I will collaborate on this painstaking process.  Councilman Henon and Commissioner Perri announced that the new Codes were expected to go into effect for commercial properties by the end of 2018. The State will retain control over residential construction codes.