Building collapse motivates state to consider new regulations
The Pennsylvania General Assembly is following the city of Philadelphia’s lead in the aftermath of the June 5, 2013, building collapse. The demolition of a Center City building went terribly wrong when a four-story brick wall fell onto the adjacent one-story Salvation Army thrift store. Six people died, and 13 were injured. The collapse buried 19 people in rubble.
As we discussed in our July 2 post, the city’s hearings about the collapse elicited more than a few calls to change existing regulations for demolition projects. Testimony cited enforcement issues as well.
Two House committees held their own hearings on July 9 that could result in changes to the state’s uniform construction code. With a few exceptions, participants were in favor of the proposals.
Specifically, lawmakers want to mandate that all applicants for demolition projects obtain $1 million in liability insurance. They would also require that licensed architects or building engineers prepare demolition applications.
Trade associations and unions were not enthusiastic about the ideas. Both proposals would add to contractors’ costs, in turn adding to project costs, they said. That would knock more small businesses out of the running. There are also enforcement costs to consider — especially when enforcement is lacking under the current rules.
Lawmakers had an answer to the cost question. The bill includes a 15 percent increase in the price of individual demolition permits.
Whether that will be enough to cover the additional funding needs at the Department of Licenses and Inspections is unclear. The bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, and both sides will have more opportunities to run the numbers and to have their say.
Source: Insurance Journal, “Pennsylvania Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Fatal Building Collapse,” Associated Press, July 11, 2013