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 Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What model building code will be adopted be  the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and what will it apply to?
  2. When will the Uniform Construction Code take effect? 
  3. What structures will not be covered by the code? 
  4. Who will administer and enforce the statewide code?  
  5. What options do local governments have, if they chose to administer and enforce the Uniform Construction Code?
  6. What are the Uniform Construction Code's requirements for sprinklers in college and university dormitories? 
  7. Do any requirements of the UCC apply to buildings or structures in existence prior to the effect date of the UCC regulations?
  8. What are the minimum emergency egress requirements from sleeping areas?

 

1.  What model code will be adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and what will it apply to?

The Family of International Building Codes have been adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and will become effective on April 9, 2004 The International Private Sewage Disposal Code, International Property Maintenance Code and the International Zoning Code will not be adopted.  The Department will issue regulations with technical standards that replace the standards for elevators and other lifting devices found in the IBC. 

While the code affects the alteration, repair and occupancy of all buildings and structures (private and public), the primary focus of the Uniform Construction Code is new construction. (See also the answers to questions 3 
and 7)

 

2.  When will the Uniform Construction Code take effect?


The Uniform Construction Code standards will become effective April 9, 2004. Municipalities will then have up to 90 additional days to decide whether they will assume administrative and enforcement responsibilities.  This is know as the opt-in or opt-outperiod.

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3.  What structures will not be covered by the code?

The following are excluded:

  • New buildings or renovations to existing buildings for which a building permit has been issued or for which a contract for design or construction has been signed, prior to the effective date of the regulations issued under the act.
  • Utility and miscellaneous-use structures (except for swimming pools and spas) which are accessory to detached one-family dwellings. Note that this includes carports, detached private garages, greenhouses and sheds that have a building area of less than 1,000 square feet.
  • Agricultural buildings (however, all habitable areas and agricultural product processing structures are covered).

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4.  Who will administer and enforce the statewide code?


Local governments are intended to be the primary enforcement agents. However, they may decline to administer and enforce the code.

 

Should a local government "opt out," the following will occur:

  • Administration and enforcement for non-residential construction in that jurisdiction will be provided by the Department of Labor and Industry.
  • For one- and two-family residential construction in that jurisdiction, certified third-party agencies hired by the property owner will do plan/specification reviews and inspections.

 

5.  What options do local governments have, if they chose to administer and enforce the Uniform Construction Code?

 

The local government can:

  • use its own employees  
  • retain one or more construction code officials or third-party agencies to act on its behalf  
  • enter into a contract with another municipality  
  • jointly administer the code with one or more other municipalities  
  • enter into an agreement with the Department of Labor and Industry for plan reviews, inspections and other aspects of code enforcement for non-residential structures.

A municipality can utilize these options in a wide variety of ways, to best suit its needs.  For example, it could choose to handle all residential code work through its own employees, and contract for all or part of non-residential plan approvals and inspections.  Or, it could perform certain aspects of both residential and non-residential plan approvals and inspections, and contract for other aspects.

 

Any opt-in municipality that expects that it will contract with the Department for commercial code enforcement services should be aware of the following. 

 

Act 45 does provide that opt-in municipalities may contract with the Department (or third-party agencies which are working under contract with the Department) for commercial plan reviews and/or inspections.  However, the Department cannot guarantee at this juncture that it will be able to contract for this work.  Our ability to do this hinges on the workload which will be generated by opt-out municipalities (which won't be determined until the municipal election period concludes), the availability of third party agencies with appropriate certifications to perform work in the opt-in municipalities requesting services, etc.

 

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6.  What are the Uniform Construction Code's requirements for sprinklers in college and university dormitories?

 

Once implemented the UCC will require that an automatic sprinkler system be installed in new dormitories that accommodate more than five persons and where the fire area is more than two stories in height (including basements or where there are more than 16 dwelling units. A residential sprinkler system may be installed as long as other requirements are met.

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7.  Do any of the requirements of the UCC apply to buildings or structures in existence prior to the effect date of the UCC regulations?

 

If a building or structure is legally existing (i.e., it meets all code requirements in place prior to the effective date of the UCC), it does not have to meet code requirements for existing structures found in the International Building Code (or its referenced codes). However, if a building was constructed prior to the effective date of the UCC and it does not have the certificate(s) of occupancy required under previous laws, it may be subject to all the design and construction provisions of the Uniform Construction Code.

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8.  What are the minimum egress requirements from sleeping areas?

All sleeping rooms below the fourth story in any residential occupancy shall have at least one operating window or exterior door that can be used by the occupant and approved by the plan reviewer for emergency egress or rescue. The window or door shall be operable from the inside without the use of special knowledge, separate tools or a force greater than that, which is required for normal operation of the window. When windows are provided as a means of egress or rescue, the windows shall have the bottom of the clear opening not more than 44 inches above the floor. All egress or rescue windows from sleeping rooms shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet when on any level above a grade floor. The minimum net clear open height dimension of the window shall be 24 inches and the minimum net clear open width dimension shall be 20 inches. The minimum net clear open area for any window below the grade floor shall be 5.0 square feet.

When you have a bar, grilles or screens placed over emergency escape windows to keep intruders out, that bar, grille or screen must be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool or force greater than that which is required for normaloperation of the window.

This information is from PA Labor and Industry.