Recently the Pennsylvania state legislature passed HB 409, which updates Pennsylvania's broken code adoption process. Unfortunately, the new process is still less than ideal to adopt codes that are the bare legal minimum with which a designer or builder need to comply. Pennsylvania is currently using the 2009 codes, which are no longer supported by the International Code Council and are 30 percent less efficient than the 2015/2018 energy code.
HB 409 lays out a path to adopt the 2015 codes, even though the 2015 codes are a full code cycle behind the latest, more administratively consistent, and somewhat more builder-friendly 2018 codes. The legislation extends the review and adoption period for codes from three years to four and one-half years, meaning PA would not adopt the 2018 codes until 2021 or 2022, at which point the state would still be a code cycle behind the latest national code. A four- or five-year code adoption cycle could be ok if there is rigorous enforcement and compliance. Unfortunately, as the 2017/2018 PA/DOE/PNNL code compliance study points out, code compliance within the state is in need of improvement.
One somewhat promising aspect of the bill is that it allows class one cities like Philadelphia to adopt the 2018 codes but restricts other municipalities to adopt standards higher than the UCC. These restrictions will propel cities and municipalities to find workarounds to more rigorous construction standards through zoning or incentives. A patchwork of codes and standards will be created, causing confusion and hampering the state from advancing efficiency and carbon reduction consistently on a statewide basis.
Imagine living in the 21st century, but being forced to use the slower and unsupported 20th-century hardware and software technologies. This is what HB409 reinforces. Technologies will be years - maybe even decades old - before they would be included in the code.
As a former, 15-year resident of the Pennsylvania, I know that the state can do better. Citizens want cleaner air and more efficient buildings, not outdated technologies and life safety practices that the inertia of special interests codifies in HB409.