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Bill to adopt 2018 commercial building codes moves forward

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Supporters tout the codes’ environmental benefit

For a long time, Philly’s commercial building codes have sat at the—arguably outdated—2009 standards. But that might change soon, as officials look at adopting new codes that could not only save money, but be environmentally sound as well.

The decision comes as state officials review 2015 building codes for adoption across Pennsylvania. During that review process, the Pennsylvania State Legislature gave Philly a special opportunity to jump ahead even further and adopt new 2018 commercial building codes. The committee of Licenses and Inspections took the opportunity last week and recommended a bill to adopt the codes.

If the bill passes City Council it could be an environmental boon to the city because it would force new constructions to enact energy-saving measures, according to Katie Bartolotta, Policy and Program Manager at Green Building United.

Green Building United has already drafted and submitted a letter with 70 signatures to the committee of Licenses and Inspections, supporting the bill to adopt the codes, which are not yet drafted.

“It will have an impact on indoor air quality, an impact on so many things about the buildings that we live in, that we work in, that we visit,” she said.

The bill would only apply to new constructions and major renovations, and wouldn’t apply retroactively to existing structures. Additionally, it would affect multi-family homes and other commercial buildings.

The reason for environmentalists’ support of the bill is simple, Bartolotta said.

“Each code cycle is more energy efficient than the last,” she said, adding that the energy burden in Philadelphia is a already high. “Buildings in Philadelphia are primary users of energy and primary contributors to carbon emissions.”

On top of their environmental impact, codes that conserve energy would save building occupants and renters money on their bills, Barolotta said.

“If we’re using less energy at the start, we’re saving people money.”

The bill is going in front of City Council this week and, if it passes, it has to be done before the state is finished reviewing and implementing the 2015 codes in the fall. If the bill doesn’t pass, Philly will have to adopt the 2015 codes with the rest of the state.