An investigative committee of the Philadelphia City Council said that the state of Pennsylvania must update its building codes to reduce a serious public safety threat like the deadly June 5 building collapse that killed six people and injured 14 others in a Salvation Army thrift store.
In a report issued last week, the Philadelphia City Council Special Investigative Committee urged the Governor, state legislature, and Uniform Construction Code Review Advisory Committee (RAC) to adopt model building codes to ensure the safety of all buildings, not just in Philadelphia but in the rest of Pennsylvania.
“Model building codes include the latest building techniques and are updated based on new technology and lessons learned from natural and other disasters,” the Committee said in its report. “The failure to adopt the model Code creates substandard buildings that could lead to unintended, severe consequences that threaten public safety.”
The Committee said it would introduce a resolution urging the legislature to update the state codes.
“This report shines a light on the state’s dysfunctional and broken building code process and the real-world consequences of substandard buildings,” said Andrew Sharp, director of outreach for PennFuture, a nonprofit environmental and economic advocacy organization based in Harrisburg. “One of the best guarantees we have to ensure safe, well-constructed, energy-efficient buildings is updated state building codes. So what are we waiting for?”
The deadly cave-in at Market and 22nd Street in Philadelphia occurred when a four-story apartment building undergoing demolition collapsed on top of a single-level Salvation Army thrift store, crushing it and several shoppers and store workers inside it at the time.
The disaster has also brought scrutiny upon building codes, protocols and other potential sources of trouble at the local level. In June, the Associated Press reported on Philadelphia’s history of unsafe construction work, quoting local officials such as Councilman Jim Kenney, chair of the labor and civil service committee, who said that safety standards often take a backseat to costs in the city.
“There is an underground economy that’s grown up as a result of the issue relative to the cost of construction,” Mr. Kenney told the AP. “The cost of the construction should not trump safety.”