Advisories

Advisory on Accessibility-Only Plan Reviews and Inspections

The Pennsylvania Construction Code Act and its regulations provide that the Department will be responsible for accessibility enforcement in any municipality that has elected to administer and enforce the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), until such time as that municipality employs a person (or contracts with a third party agency which employs a person) holding UCC certification as an Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner.
 
The General Assembly established this provision to ensure that, at the onset of the UCC program (when code officials that held the accessibility certification and other required certifications were relatively few), the level of accessibility enforcement that occurred under the Fire and Panic Act regulations would not be diminished under the UCC.
 
More than six years have transpired since the UCC took effect, and L&I’s role in performing these limited approvals should be coming to an end. There are currently over 120 certified third-party agencies that can perform accessibility approvals for any opt-in municipalities that do not employ a person certified in accessibility.
 
To ensure that the Department’s involvement in accessibility enforcement in opt-in municipalities does not continue indefinitely and that we are only serving municipalities that truly have been unable to provide accessibility enforcement via their employees or certified third party agencies, the Department has instituted a new requirement pertaining to all accessibility-only reviews performed on or after October 1, 2010.
 
As of that date, all applications for Department accessibility-only plan approvals and inspections must include a copy of the Department’s ACCESSIBILITY CERTIFICATION DISCLOSURE STATEMENT (form number UCC-30).
 
By clicking here, Building Code Officials can access a copy of this form. After filling this out and signing it, copies should be made and provided to all permit applicants who must secure accessibility approvals from the Department. Building Code officials should also advise customers that, if their application to the Department does not include this disclosure form, it will be returned to them as incomplete.
 

Advisory on “Building Code Official” (BCO) Certification

BCO Requirement and Exceptions

The Department’s Code Training and Certification Regulation requires that every person who manages, supervises or directs a code administration and enforcement office be certified as a “Building Code Official.”
 
The person holding only this certification cannot perform plans reviews or inspections. His/her duties are restricted to: management of building code enforcement activities, supervision of building inspectors or plans examiners, issuing building permits, certificates of occupancy, notice of violations and orders to vacate, and initiating prosecutions.
 
Every UCC code enforcement program must have at least one person who holds this certification.

Focus of BCO Exam

The BCO certification exam tests a person’s knowledge of the UCC statute (Act 45) and the regulations implementing the Act.

Taking the BCO Exam

The Department has authorized the Pennsylvania Construction Codes Academy (PCCA) to offer and administer the BCO examination at sites throughout Pennsylvania. The PCCA also offers a training course to prepare persons to perform BCO duties and to take the required examination. Visit the PCCA website or call 717-763-0930 to obtain further information about taking this examination.
 
(Advisory revised 11/14/07.)
 

Advisory on Certain Electrical Requirements
with an Effective Date of 1/1/08

The National Electric Code 2005 , which took effect on 12/31/06, contains two provisions that cannot be enforced until January 1, 2008. See Sections 210.12 (and the corresponding section of the International Residential Code 2006, E3802.12) and 410.73 (G) that are cited verbatim below.
 
Because UCC codes and standards do not normally contain requirements with prospective enforcement dates, the Department is issuing this advisory to alert UCC officials about these peculiar requirements.
 
These requirements, to the extent applicable, should be imposed on all electrical work for which an application for a UCC building permit is made on or after January 1, 2008.

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NEC 2005

210.12 Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection.
 
(A) Definition: Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter. An arc-fault circuit interrupter is a device intended to provide protection from the effects of arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected.
 
(B) Dwelling Unit Bedrooms. All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dwelling unit bedrooms shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter, combination type installed to provide protection of the branch circuit.
 
Branch/feeder AFCIs shall be permitted to be used to meet the requirements of 210.12(B) until January 1, 2008.
FPN: For information on types of arc-fault circuit interrupters, see UL 1699-1999, Standard for Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters .
Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit in compliance with (a) and (b):
(a) The arc-fault circuit interrupter installed within 1.8 m (6 ft) of the branch circuit overcurrent device as measured along the branch circuit conductors.
 
(b) The circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be installed in a metal raceway or a cable with a metallic sheath.

IRC 2006

E3802.12 Arc-fault protection of bedroom outlets. All branch circuits that supply 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a combination type or branch/feeder type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit. Effective January 1, 2008, such arc-fault circuit interrupter devices shall be combination type.
 
Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit provided that:
  1. The arc-fault circuit interrupter is installed within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the branch circuit overcurrent device as measured along the branch circuit conductors and
     
  2. The circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arc-fault circuit interrupter are installed in a metal raceway or a cable with a metallic sheath.

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NEC 2005

Section 410.73 (G) Disconnecting Means. In indoor locations, other than dwellings and associated accessory structures, fluorescent luminaires (fixtures) that utilize double-ended lamps and contain ballast(s) that can be serviced in place or ballasted luminaires that are supplied from multiwire branch circuits and contain ballast(s) that can be serviced in place shall have a disconnecting means either internal or external to each luminaire (fixture), to disconnect simultaneously from the source of supply all conductors of the ballast, including the grounded conductor if any. The line side terminals of the disconnecting means shall be guarded. The disconnecting means shall be located so as to be accessible to qualified persons before servicing or maintaining the ballast. This requirement shall become effective January 1, 2008.
 
Exception No. 1: A disconnecting means shall not be required for luminaires (fixtures) installed in hazardous (classified) location(s).
 
Exception No. 2: A disconnecting means shall not be required for emergency illumination required in 700.16.
 
Exception No. 3: For cord-and-plug-connected luminaires, an accessible separable connector or an accessible plug and receptacle shall be permitted to serve as the disconnecting means.
 
Exception No. 4: A disconnecting means shall not be required in industrial establishments with restricted public access where conditions of maintenance and supervision ensure that only qualified persons service the installation by written procedures.
 
Exception No. 5: Where more than one luminaire is installed and supplied by other than a multiwire branch circuit, a disconnecting means shall not be required for every luminaire when the design of the installation includes locally accessible disconnects, such that the illuminated space cannot be left in total darkness.
 

Advisory on Ground Snow Loads

Ground snow loads used to determine design snow loads for roofs in Pennsylvania’s political subdivisions will not be developed and published by the Department.
 
Design professionals are responsible for utilizing either the ground snow loads established per Figure 1608.2 of the International Building Code or for developing the ground snow loads for all areas designated as “Case Study” areas in Pennsylvania.
 
Currently, assistance in developing the appropriate snow loads in a case study area cannot be obtained from the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire.
 
(Advisory revised 6/28/07.)
 

Advisory on the Health Care Facilities Act

Section 403.22 of the UCC regulation specifies that UCC building permits and certificates of occupancy may not be issued for buildings that are regulated by the Health Care Facilities Act (HCFA), unless the PA Department of Health (DOH) has first approved construction plans or the completed work.
 
Please note the following where conflicts exist between the DOH licensure requirements (found in their regulation, the NFPA-101 standard or the Guidelines for Construction and Equipment of Hospital and Medical Facilities) and the UCC: the DOH requirements take precedence, if the UCC is silent or has less strict requirements; where the DOH requirements are silent on an issue or are less strict than the UCC requirements, the UCC takes precedence.
 
Questions about the DOH requirements may be directed to Charles Schlegel, Life Safety Code Administrator (phone: 717-787-1911).
 
The following buildings or facilities are regulated by HCFA and the DOH:
  • Ambulatory Surgical Facilities (only Class B and Class C)
  • Birth Centers
  • Cancer Treatment Centers
  • General Hospitals
  • Hospice Agencies
  • Intermediate Care Facilities For The Mentally Retarded (ICF/MRs)
  • Kidney-Dialysis Centers and End State Renal Disease Centers (ESRDs) serving in-patients
  • Long-Term Nursing Care Facilities
  • Specialty Hospitals

Advisory on Manufactured Housing

The UCC administration and enforcement regulation that took effect on April 9, 2004 made new manufactured housing units subject to the UCC requirements, specifically, portions of Appendix E and other requirements found in the International Residential Code 2003 (IRC).
 
On November 29, 2004 the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) was enacted and took precedence over the UCC regulation.
 
Although the MHIA limits the application of the UCC to manufactured housing, the UCC still regulates all of the following:
  1. The issuance of UCC building permits and certificates of occupancy for the assembly and installation of new manufactured housing. However, whenever the manufacturer’s instructions/design information is provided, the UCC governs only utility connections and grading and any issues not addressed in the manufacturer’s approved design documentation.
     
  2. Alterations or repairs to a manufactured home that don’t fall within the approved instructions and applicable federal standards, after assembly and shipment by the manufacturer.
     
  3. Additions to a manufactured home after delivery to the site.
     
  4. Construction, alteration, repair or change of occupancy if a manufactured home is resold to a subsequent purchaser.
     
  5. Construction, alteration, repair or change of occupancy if the original purchaser relocates the manufactured home.
     
  6. Installation activity, if there is no manufacturer’s approved design governing the activity. (35 P.S. § 1658.6(a), (b), (c),(f)).
An installer must certify to the Building Code Official with jurisdiction that the manufactured home was installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s approved design and the UCC, where applicable. (35 P.S. § 1658.6(e)).
 
The manufacturer’s approved design documentation must be kept at the job site and accessible to UCC officials with jurisdiction for the work. (35 P.S. § 1658.6(c)).
 
When an addition is made, or alteration or relocation occurs, both the International Existing Building Code 2003 (IEBC) and the International Residential Code 2003 have requirements that should be complied with. When a manufactured home is relocated, Chapter 11 of the IEBC may apply.
 
As of August 23, 2006 , the MHIA requires that only certified installers install all new manufactured homes and, at the completion of the installation, issue a “Certificate of Compliance” to the purchaser, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), and the Building Code Official. A UCC certificate of occupancy may not be issued by any Building Code Official until he has received this special compliance certificate. Click here to view further information on these requirements. Click here to view a copy of the DCED “Certificate of Compliance.”
 
If you have questions about manufactured housing and the non-UCC requirements that apply to the construction of these units and their on-site installation, call (717) 720-7416 or e-mail Mark Conte, Chief of the Housing Standards Division, at the Department of Community and Economic Development.
 

One- and Two-Family Dwelling Fire Protection of Floors

Act 1 of 2011 amended Section 901 of the PCCA to include subsection (h)(2), which requires certain floor assemblies that are not required to be fire-resistance rated by the International Residential Code (IRC) to be provided with ½-inch gypsum wallboard membrane, 5/8-inch wood structural panel membrane or equivalent on the underside of the floor framing member (35 P.S. § 7210.901(h)(2).
 
To determine equivalency, Section 721.6.2, specifically Table 721.6.2(1), of the 2009 International Building Code, which assigns a fire resistance rating time to membranes on the fire-exposed side of a floor framing assembly, is referenced. Table 721.6.2(1) assigns a fire-resistance rating time of 15 minutes to both ½-inch gypsum wallboard and 19/32-inch wood structural panels. Therefore, any membrane installed on the fire-exposed side of a floor framing assembly that provides a 15-minute fire-resistance rating time should be considered as equivalent to the requirements of subsection(h)(1), provided the documentation is acceptable to the municipal code official.
 
(Issued 8/1/2011)
 

One- and Two-Family Dwelling Sprinker Installation

Section R313 of the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) mandates the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in new one- and two-family dwellings. The compliance date was January 1, 2011. However, the automatic sprinkler requirement for new one- and two-family dwellings was repealed retroactively to January 1, 2011 on April 25, 2011, when HB 377 was signed into law as Act 1 of 2011.
 
Municipalities with legally enacted local residential sprinkler requirements (adopted in a local building code ordinance that was in effect on July 1, 1999 or adopted per the section 503 amendment process after the municipality elected to administer and enforce the UCC) may continue to enforce these requirements.
 
Act 1 amended Section 902 of the PCCA to include subsection (g)(2), which requires a builder of a one- or two-family dwelling subject to the IRC to offer the buyer the option to install sprinklers at the buyer's expense and to provide the buyer with information regarding the initial and ongoing costs associated with a sprinkler system and the benefits of installing a sprinkler system. The Act does not mandate that this offer be in writing nor does it mandate that a specific form be used to document that the builder complied with the requirements of section 901(g)(2) (35 P.S. §7210.901(g)(2)).
 
Act 1 does not prohibit the installation of a partial automatic sprinkler system, if the buyer chooses, so long as the system is designed and installed in accordance with the provisions of section R313.2.1 (relating to design and installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems) of the 2009 IRC. However, to comply with the exception regarding fire protection of floors under Section (H)(2)(I) of Act 1, the automatic sprinkler system directly under the floor assembly must be installed in accordance with P2904, NFPA 13D or must be another equivalent sprinkler system approved by a municipal code official.
 
(Issued 8/1/2011)
 

Advisory on Recreational Cabin Exclusion

Act 92 of 2004 provides that recreational cabins may be excluded from the requirements of the Uniform Construction Code.
 
To be excluded, the owner of the cabin must comply with all of the following. He must:
  1. Equip the cabin with at least one smoke detector, one fire extinguisher and one carbon monoxide detector in both the kitchen and any sleeping areas.
     
  2. File (with the municipality where the cabin will be constructed) either of the following:
     
    1. The Department of Labor and Industry affidavit form (UCC-13) attesting to the fact that the structure meets the definition of a “recreational cabin” found in Section 103 of Act 92. Click here to access this form.
       
    2. Written proof of insurance from an insurer authorized to do business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania stating that the structure meets the definition of a “recreational cabin” found in Section 103 of Act 92.
     
  3. Provide written notice in the sales agreement and the deed, upon sale of a recreational cabin which has been excluded from UCC construction requirements, that:
     
    1. The structure is exempt from the requirements of the UCC.
       
    2. The structure may not be in conformance with the UCC.
       
    3. The structure is not subject to municipal construction regulations.
A failure to provide this notice shall void the sale, at the option of the purchaser.
 

Advisory on Residential Care Facilities

At the outset of the UCC, a residential care facility (that satisfied the UCC requirements for an R-3 or an R-4 occupancy) could be approved for occupancy, even though it housed residents (five or fewer) that were incapable of exiting the facility on their own, in an emergency situation.
 
This is no longer the case. The International Building Code 2009 clearly mandates that if a care facility has even one resident that is incapable of self-preservation, a Building Code Official must classify the facility as an I-2 (and impose, among other things, sprinkler requirements). This applies to buildings undergoing a change of use and occupancy, and to new buildings that will be constructed for the purpose of providing residential care services.
 
Residential care facilities classified as R-3, R-4 or I-1 must only house persons that are capable of self-preservation. All residents must be capable of responding to an emergency entirely on their own; i.e., they must be able to hear/see and understand any alarms, and then make their way out of the building, unaided.
 
Of course, residential care facilities holding certificates of occupancy issued prior to the onset of the UCC (and under the UCC, but prior to the imposition to the stricter requirement pertaining to persons incapable of self-preservation) may continue to operate under these certificates, as long as they are maintained under the terms and conditions imposed at the time they were allowed to be occupied.
 
Click here to access an L&I document that outlines the various Fire and Panic Regulation and UCC use and occupancy classifications for residential care facilities.
 
(Advisory revised 7/12/10.)
 

Advisory on Sprinkler System Shop Drawings

There has been some confusion regarding whether “shop drawings” (submitted either at the time of initial plan approval or as part of a deferred submission) must be signed and sealed by a Pennsylvania-licensed design professional.
 
They do not need to be. The basis for this answer is as follows:
§403.42a(f)(3) of the UCC regulation, which deals with sprinkler shop drawings, only requires that the drawings "contain the information required by the referenced installation standards contained in Chapter 9 of the International Building Code.” The NFPA 13, 13D and 13R standards referenced in this chapter do not contain a requirement that the “working plans” be sealed by a licensed design professional.
 
This is in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Architect's Licensure Law and its Professional Engineer, Professional Land Surveyor and Professional Geologist Law, both of which stipulate that "the preparation of shop drawings" is exempted from the requirements of these laws. See 63 P.S. §34.15(3) and 63 P.S. §152(j).
 
Most (but not all) sprinkler drawings are presented as a deferred submission (after the initial plan approval and issuance of the building permit). When the submission of sprinkler shop drawings is deferred, the UCC regulation, at §403.43(k)(3), requires only the following:
"A licensed architect or professional engineer shall first review submittal documents for deferred submittal items and place a notation on the documents that the architect or engineer reviewed the documents and that the documents are in general conformance with the design of the building or structure."

Advisory on “State-Owned Buildings”

Section 403.141 of the UCC regulation specifies that the Department has sole jurisdiction for UCC enforcement pertaining to “state-owned buildings” no matter where they are located.
 
Here are the legal definitions for what constitute “state-owned buildings.”
 
34 Pa Code §401.1:
State-owned building-A building owned by or to be constructed for Commonwealth entities consisting of the General Assembly, the Unified Judicial System, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, an executive agency, independent agency, and a State-affiliated entity or State-related institution as defined in 62 Pa.C.S. §103 (relating to definitions).
62 Pa.C.S. §103:
"State-affiliated entity." A Commonwealth authority or a Commonwealth entity. The term includes the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, the State Public School Building Authority, the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority and the State System of Higher Education. The term does not include any court or other officer or agency of the unified judicial system, the General Assembly and its officers and agencies, any State-related institution, political subdivision or any local, regional or metropolitan transportation authority.

Advisory on Temporary Structures

Temporary structures are generally not subject to UCC permit and inspection requirements, if they are not erected for more than 180 days, for the following reasons:
  • The UCC regulation is based on and replaces Chapter 1 of the International Building Code (IBC) and it does not incorporate §108 of the IBC that provides the basis for requiring permits for temporary structures and uses.
     
  • The UCC regulation (at 34 Pa Code §401.1) defines a “structure” as “a combination of materials that are built or constructed with a permanent location or attached to something that has a permanent foundation.” [Underlining added for emphasis.]
There are three exceptions to this temporary structure exclusion.
 
Act 45 as amended by Act 39 of 2007 (effective on July 17, 2007) defines a narrow subset of temporary structures and establishes requirements that pertain solely to this type of structure. As a result of this change, structures erected for the purpose of “participation in a fair, flea market, arts and craft festival or other public celebration” do not have to comply with the Uniform Construction Code. To be excluded, this type of structure must: be less than 1,600 sq. ft. in size; be erected for less than 30 days, and, must not be a swimming pool, spa or hot tub. (See 34 Pa Code §403.1(b)(12).) Municipalities desiring to regulate this type of temporary structure must comply with 35 P.S. §7210.503, including subsection (a) (2).
 
Any municipality that elects to administer and enforce the UCC is authorized to alter certain portions of the UCC regulation (see 34 Pa Code §403.102(l)), as long as the changes equal or exceed the regulatory requirements. This includes §403.42 (relating to permit requirements). A municipal ordinance subjecting additional or all other temporary structures to UCC permit requirements would clearly exceed the regulation and, thus, would be permissible.
 
Finally, the Department believes that the UCC makes an important distinction between building and structures. In contrast to the definition of a structure (see above) a "building" is "a structure used or intended for supporting or sheltering any occupancy." (See 34 Pa Code §401.1.)
 
For this reason, the Department and an enforcing municipality has a basis for viewing a temporary building or structure that will be occupied on a regular basis or to which the public has access differently than a building or structure that is erected for less than 180 days and that is not occupied by the general public. If the building will be occupied by the general public, a Building Code Official should require a permit and impose the requirements found in section 3103.2 through 3103.4 of the IBC. (Section 3103.1.1 is not applicable because it conflicts with the scoping provisions of the UCC regulation and, where such a conflict exists, 34 Pa Code §403.27(e) stipulates that the regulation governs.)
 
Note also that temporary buildings for which a UCC permit must be secured must comply with accessibility requirements, since the IBC at section 1103.1 stipulates:
Sites, buildings, structures, facilities, elements and spaces, temporary or permanent, shall be accessible to persons with physical disabilities.
(Advisory revised 1/19/11.)
 

Advisory on Townhouse Sprinkler Installation

Section R313 of the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) mandates the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in new townhouses. The compliance date for new townhouses was Jan. 1, 2010.
 
The specific requirements for the design and installation of sprinklers in townhouses are found in section P2904 in the IRC.
 
This advisory is posted to clarify what requirements are imposed on persons that design or install automatic fire sprinkler systems in townhomes, and what certifications UCC code officials must have in order to approve these systems.
 
Designer and installer requirements: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania imposes no certification or licensure requirements on persons who design or install residential sprinkler systems, per se. However, all contractors performing home improvements must register with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. Installers should also check with the municipality in which the work will be done, to see if there are any local licensure requirements.
 
Requirements for code officials approving residential sprinkler systems: Currently, there is no residential certification category related to plan examination. The Department recommends that persons with inspection certifications applicable to the nature of the proposed work review and approve the plans submitted for residential building permits.
 
Since residential sprinkler system design and installation must comply primarily with plumbing requirements, the Department recommends that a code official certified as a Residential Plumbing Inspector (category 13) be responsible for plan approval and inspection of residential sprinkler systems. However, it would be advisable for persons certified as a Residential Building Inspector (category 10) and a Residential Electrical Inspector (category 11) to also be involved. The former should be able to identify potential framing obstructions and the latter is able to inspect and approve any electrical connections.
 
It may be helpful to also involve persons certified as Building Inspectors (category 15) and Building Plans Examiners (category 24), in residential sprinkler plan review and inspections, since the duties and responsibilities for these two certification categories include approval of commercial fire protection systems.
 
(Advisory revised 8/1/2011)
 

Advisory on Utility Service Connections

The UCC regulations at 403.47 and 403.66 specify that the permanent energizing of electrical and gas systems shall only occur after proof is presented to the public utility that these systems have complied with all requirements of the UCC.
 
Typically, the proof to be presented is “cut-in” card or other written statement indicating that a UCC-certified or registered code official has inspected the electrical system and found it to be in compliance with the UCC. This statement should include both the name of the inspector and his UCC certification or registration card number.
 
Code officials should familiarize themselves with each utility company’s procedures and guidelines for energizing buildings or structures. These may include special customer interface requirements, special grounding requirements, etc. Some utilities will not accept cut-in cards that lack a customer number or a special work request number issued by the utility. While the UCC regulation does not require a UCC inspector to place this number on a cut-in card, provision of this number will facilitate the energizing of a system approved under the UCC.
 
In response to a request from the Department of Labor and Industry, the Energy Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association have prepared lists of their member companies and relevant contact information, for the submission of compliance statements needed for permanent service connections. Click the links below to access printer-friendly copies of these contact lists. 
 
 
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