Outreach to Architects in Pennsylvania

by Maria Ellingson, BCAP

As often the first point of contact with prospective owners of new homes and buildings, architects are a key influencer in determining the level of energy efficiency that is included in new construction and major renovation projects. But architects have been largely absent from an important issue that’s left Pennsylvania unable to adopt an updated building code.

The process for adopting the state building code – the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) – is currently defective due a technicality in the way a law passed in 2011 (Act 1) is interpreted by Pennsylvania’s code Review and Advisory Council (RAC). The RAC is a 19-member, governor-appointed council of construction industry and local government representatives that reviews and makes recommendations to code update considerations. The RAC’s interpretation of the law is causing the state to remain on the 2009 building codes. Without legislative action, updating the state of Pennsylvania’s building code seems nearly impossible within the current process. Ultimately, home and business owners in Pennsylvania will be impacted by higher energy bills as a result. This is one reason why stakeholders in Pennsylvania formed the Energy Code Compliance Collaborative, to address this and other issues with improving energy code use and understanding in the state.

As part of the Building Code Assistance Project’s (BCAP) growing initiative to establish a greater involvement in energy codes within the architecture culture, BCAP’s Maureen Guttman met with the Pennsylvania Board of AIA PA in January. BCAP urged AIA PA to become an active participant in the Energy Code Compliance Collaborative, and to take a leadership role in repairing Pennsylvania’s UCC. In addition, AIA PA can help to instill a culture of leadership for a high performance and energy-efficient design ethic among AIA members.

This meeting is the latest in BCAP’s outreach to architects across the county, which will continue throughout 2015 to: (1) encourage better attention to energy code requirements and details in their designs, (2) promote consistent inclusion of proper energy code compliance documentation and, (3) become more aggressive in their efforts to see their projects through to full compliance with the energy codes. For other examples of BCAP’s outreach to architects, see:

  • “The Architect as Superhero” from the Hanley Wood’s Vision 2020 Sustainability Summit, held in conjunction with the Greenbuild conference in New Orleans, LA in Fall 2014. About 200 architects, green building enthusiasts, educators, and others heard BCAP’s inspiring message. The video was subsequently widely distributed on the Hanley Wood ECHOBUILDING Pulse website and on The Online Code Environment and Advocacy Network (OCEAN), and can be viewed here.
  • BCAP’s message of energy codes as a “business opportunity for architects” at the National American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention. The presentation was also selected (through a competitive process) for inclusion on AIA University, their online learning platform, available here.
  • BCAP’s article entitled “Codes, Standards and Rating System – Are architects unaware of their legal obligations under licensure, or are they simply negligent?” published in ECOBUILDING Pulse magazine-an online publication read by architects and designers.