by Phil Yacuboski
After nearly a decade, Pennsylvania’s building codes are getting a remodel, which will change the way contractors and builders do their jobs.
“They have increased the energy requirements significantly,” said Douglas Meshaw, codes expert for the Pennsylvania Builders Association.
Homes are expected to become 25 percent more efficient than with previous codes adopted in 2009.
The changes take effect Oct. 1 and are part of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code.
“It requires a certain level of insulation in both the interior and exterior to get the maximum energy efficiency,” he said.
The new codes are based on 2015 standards. In 2011, Pennsylvania began passing a series of laws aimed at updating the codes more easily. The Review and Advisory Council adopted no changes in 2012 and just a handful in 2015.
According to the RAC, more than 300 public comments were heard for additional input.
Meshaw said there are a number of nuances in the changes and plenty that weren’t adopted.
“One of things that didn’t make it in was requiring an automatic door closer in the garage that goes on the door from the garage to the house,” said Meshaw. “And it’s ridiculous, because if someone comes in with a bag of groceries they are going to prop the door open anyway.”
That was one change made in 2015 that Pennsylvania chose not to adopt.
Meshaw said some of the changes are long overdue and others are not.
“The problem with our codes is that some of the old codes are good and some of them are not. They are really all over the place,” he said. “Some of our codes are from 2006 and others are from 2009 and then when we jump in 2015.”
He said contractors often have a difficult time knowing all of the changes.
“They have to know everything,” he said. “They are going to be confusing because they change everywhere else every
three years, so this is a
The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center, based in State College, is helping to facilitate the changes for builders across the state with both in-person visits and webinars.
“We are partnering with a lot of industry associations or local builders’ groups to get the word out,” said Brian Wolfgang, associate director of the PHRC.
He said they’ve done six in-person seminars with more set for the fall.
“The last time we had a change was 2009,” said Wolfgang. “It’s just a very condensed timeline to get all of this information and to get up to speed, but I think the residential construction industry will get there and get there pretty quickly.”
Wolfgang is hoping contractors don’t have to learn when getting inspected.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if all new construction followed the 2015 building code recommendations, owners would see the savings in as little as three years.
Experts do say the cost of a newly built home would increase, but exactly how much isn’t known.
“Some of those costs can be recouped, especially when it comes to energy,”