Uniform Construction Code

Treatment of Historic Buildings

  1. Legally Occupying An Historic Building

    Since many buildings designated by government entities as historic were never granted approvals under the Fire and Panic Act or local building code ordinances, and Act 45 provides a quasi-exclusion from UCC requirements, the Department will determine their legal occupancy under the UCC in the following manner:

    1. If the historic building was built prior to April 27, 1927:

      The building is deemed to be legally occupied under the Uniform Construction Code, since the building did not have to secure a permit to be legally occupied under the Fire and Panic Act. No occupancy permit is required nor will any be issued, as long as the building has not been altered or that no change in its use and occupancy has occurred.

    2. If the historic building was built after April 27, 1927 or was built prior to April 27, 1927 and has been altered or changed its use:

      Section 902 of Act 45 and section 403.1(a) of the UCC regulation require that the Department determine what code requirements might have to be complied with (at minimum, it will have to comply with accessibility requirements).

      To perform this assessment, the owner of the historic building should satisfy all the application requirements found under section K (Application Requirements: Unapproved Existing Building Permits) on the Plan Review and Inspection Requirements page. Click here to access these requirements. The Department will then determine what code requirements will have to be complied with, for legal occupancy of the building.

      The owner of the building should seek relief from any UCC requirements that may result in changes to the historic features or that are technically infeasible from the appropriate appeals board (either the Pennsylvania Industrial Board or the Accessibility Advisory Board).

      Upon request, the Department will perform a consultative inspection to assist the owner in identifying problem areas.

  2. Making Changes In Or To An Historic Building

    Buildings that are legally occupied and designated by government entities as historic are provided a quasi-exemption from UCC requirements by Act 45. Note that "legally occupied" means either that a building has no occupancy permit because none was or is required, or because it was granted occupancy permits under pre-UCC state law and/or a local construction code ordinance.

    Outlined below are the requirements that must be met, in order for the Department to deem them "safe and in the interest of public health, safety and welfare."

    1. If a legally occupied historic building undergoes Alterations Level-1 alterations:

      No permit is required.

    2. If a legally occupied historic building undergoes Alterations Level-2 changes, Alterations Level-3 changes or a change in the use and occupancy:

      A building permit is required.

      The application for the permit should satisfy all the application requirements specified in section H under the Department’s "Plan review and Inspection Requirements" applicable to building renovations. Click here to access these requirements.

      In addition to the requirements stated there, the applicant must include a report prepared by a licensed architect or engineer. This report must:

      • Describe the scope of the work to be done and certifying that each of the safety requirements found in Chapter 11 of the International Existing Building Code will be met;

      • Detail any requirements that will not be met, because compliance would result in damage to historic features of the building, and explain why public safety will not be jeopardized despite non-compliance with the specific code requirement; and,

      • Certify that all accessibility requirements outlined in Chapter 11 will be satisfied. Where requirements are technically infeasible, variances must be sought from the Accessibility Advisory Board. A building permit will not be issued, until the Board has approved these variances.

    Mail the complete application package to:
    Buildings Section
    Department of Labor and Industry
    651 Boas Street, Room 1606
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17121-0750
    Upon review of this application, the Department will decide if the proposed work satisfies the requirements found in 35 P.S. §7210.902 and 34 Pa Code §403.24, issue a building permit and determine what inspections may be necessary before approving the occupancy. If the work passes all required inspections, the Department will issue a letter approving the new work, deeming the building safe and allowing its use and occupancy.

  3. New Construction Or Additions On An Historic Site

    New, non-residential buildings constructed on an historic site or additions may also qualify for a UCC exemption, when the construction is deemed "safe and in the interest of public health, safety and welfare."

    A building permit is required.

    The application should satisfy all the application requirements specified in section H under the Department’s "Plan review and Inspection Requirements," to the extent applicable to building renovations. Click here to access this information.

    Mail the complete application package to:
    Buildings Section
    Department of Labor and Industry
    651 Boas Street, Room 1606
    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17121
    The owner of the building should seek relief from any UCC requirements that may result in changes to the historic features or that are technically infeasible from the appropriate appeals board (either the Pennsylvania Industrial Board or the Accessibility Advisory Board).

    Upon a satisfactory review of the application, the Department will issue a building permit and specify all inspections that must be made of the construction work. In cases where the use and occupancy may warrant this, the Department may relieve the applicant of inspection requirements.

    If all required inspections are passed, the building will receive a certificate of occupancy. If no inspections were required, the Department will issue a letter deeming the building safe in accordance with §902 of Act 45 and §403.24 of the UCC regulation.
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