BUILDING TODAY

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News and Updates

  • 26 Mar 2020 2:16 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    This is guidance from PABCO to their membership regarding the statewide shutdown of construction. PABCO, the Pennsylvania Association of Building Code Officials, is a statewide organization representing Building Code Officials and their member companies. This document reflects PABCO’s guidance to its members as of 8:50 a.m. on March 26, 2020.

    This is being provided in an effort to keep you informed about the coronavirus pandemic and the Commonwealth’s response.

    The guidance being offered is based on facts as we understand them and interpretations that seem to be common and consistent.

    That being said, PABCO does not and cannot assume any responsibility or liability for the guidance it is providing, and each of you should consult with solicitors, attorneys and government officials.

    The clarification we distributed several days ago remains in place.  Basically:

    All residential and non-residential construction has been deemed to be non life-sustaining and is therefore, not essential.

    The two exceptions being:  residential and commercial emergency repairs (to buildings, structures, equipment, etc.) AND any construction pertaining to health care facilities, including the construction or erection of temporary tents for screening purposes.

    We already addressed our thoughts on how to deal with requests for inspections for those exceptions already spelled out in the Governor’s order.

    Since then, there have been a number of waivers issued by the Commonwealth.  Those waivers allow businesses to continue to operate their physical site locations and as such, they are to be treated as essential, life-sustaining.

    A growing number of these waivers are for residential and commercial construction.  The waivers being issued are waivers for the operations of the business and do not identify or specify specific construction projects underway.  The waivers also require social distancing and working remotely to the greatest degree possible.

    It is highly unlikely that the businesses applying for the waivers will have a copy of their application since they are submitted digitally.  Therefore, it will be generally impossible to see what they applied for in terms of the waiver.

    Until different information becomes available, it would seem that municipalities and third party agencies will be expected to respond to any inspection request from a contractor with a waiver, provided that waiver is provided to the entity conducting the inspection.

    These will likely entail “routine” inspections and are not bound by the emergency repairs language.

    Additionally, information on the waiver FAQ page makes it clear that a construction business is not required to apply for a waiver if the work they are doing on a worksite is related to securing and stabilizing the site and making it temporarily weathertight to avoid undue damage.  This would be considered “emergency repairs” under the Governor’s order.

    All businesses are allowed to operate remotely, whether essential or not.  As such, submittal of permit applications, plans and documents for review and approval, etc. may continue to the degree that they can be done remotely or delivered to a municipality or third party agency without public contact occurring.

    At this time, there is no “delay” in reviewing and approving applications under the UCC.  15 days residential and 30 days commercial, 5 days residential with sealed and certified plans.

    The concern here is that once plans are reviewed and approved, permits are required to be released.  However, unless the project meets one of the Governor’s exemptions, construction cannot begin UNLESS THE PERMIT APPLICANT ALSO HAS A WAIVER, IN WHICH CASE CONSTRUCTION CAN BEGIN AND INSPECTIONS REQUESTED.

    The last bit of information this evening is that Third Party Agencies that have applied for a waiver have received a response that a waiver is not needed because the nature of their business already qualifies them as an essential, life-sustaining business.

    For those of you who deal with zoning and planning, it has been suggested by some that waivers be sought of MPC and local land use ordinance timelines so that applicants do not claim “deemed approval” for subdivision, land development and Zoning Hearing Board applications.

    If you live in or work in a “stay at home” county, please remember that performing essential services is allowed (inspections in particular) as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

    Feel free to respond with any questions or any situations that you are experiencing that are not addressed in any of this updated guidance.

    Thanks for this opportunity to be of service!

    PABCO

     

  • 25 Mar 2020 12:52 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    NAHB has put together a prevention/response document to help Builders outline what they are doing to mitigate risks on the job site.  Some states are requiring this sort of documentation even with construction deemed an essential activity.  You can also find links to the HBA resources on our website here (https://www.nahb.org/Advocacy/Industry-Issues/Emergency-Preparedness-and-Response/Coronavirus-Preparedness).

    Here you will also find a map of all the state “shelter in place” orders (which we are consistently updating as we get notified of new orders)  https://www.nahb.org/Advocacy/Industry-Issues/Emergency-Preparedness-and-Response/Coronavirus-Preparedness/Stay-on-the-Jobsite 

    DOWNLOAD THE PREVENTION/RESPONSE DOCUMENT TEMPLATE HERE

  • 25 Mar 2020 12:30 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has updated its guidance for businesses trying to ascertain what they can and cannot do in the present crisis. Here is the link to DCED’s FAQ page – https://www.scribd.com/document/452553495/UPDATED-2-00pm-March-24-2020-Life-Sustaining-Business-FAQs. All those in the residential construction field will want to pay particular attention to Section 19, which responds to the question “May I complete my customer’s residential construction project?

    While every builder and contractor will need to exercise their own best judgment based on the unique nature of their individual jobsites, this answer finally gives some authoritative guidance for what you can do even if you do not have an approved waiver. In all cases, contractors should employ the latest social distancing and COVID-safe work practices. You may also wish to consult your legal counsel regarding specific jobsite questions. 

    We understand that this latest guidance still leaves a host of unanswered questions. Nevertheless, it grants more assurance than we had previously regarding abandoned jobsites. To be on the safe side, we encourage all those who do not have waiver approvals from DCED to continue pursuing that option. Here is the link – https://expressforms.pa.gov/apps/pa/DCED/Waiver-process-keeping-physical-locations-open. 

    Regardless of whether you have a waiver, you should have a copy of the latest DCED guidance readily available in case law enforcement tries to keep you from worksites where the latest guidance allows you to work. Individual law enforcement agencies and/or officers may be unaware of this update. Those with waiver approvals would be wise to distribute copies to all employees, subcontractors, suppliers and local municipalities. As the commercial says, “don’t leave home without it.”

    PBA continues to seek further guidance and clarification regarding the Governor’s Order. As we learn more, we will do our best to share it with you. Thank you all for your support.

    Dan Durden
    PBA

  • 25 Mar 2020 12:07 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    As the country continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, employers and their employees have many questions on the potential impact. As always we are here to help and are committed to you guiding you through this situation as it relates to your employee benefits program. Below is important information and a reminder of the resources available to you.

    For any questions or concerns regarding your benefit program, carrier, or coverage, contact your Account Manager. We have a business continuity plan and technical resources in place to enable our employees to work from home if needed, in order to continue to support your business needs.

    For employees that have questions on coverage, co-pays, claims, etc., contact the Benefits Service Center at (800) 556-4699. Employees can call the BSC directly so you can focus on other areas of your business.

    HR Support


    As an MBA client you have complimentary access to ThinkHR, including live phone support and HR resources. You can access these resources be logging into your account at www.thinkhr.com. If you do not have an account, please contact your account manager.


    Common Client Concerns

    We will be sending out additional information on solutions to address the other trends we are seeing from our clients, including:

    • Coverage for employees currently not on the group health plan
    • Cost containment strategies
    • FMLA Responsibilities
    • Voluntary Benefits, including Life Insurance
    • Employee Communication on Benefits

    The COVID-19 situation is a challenging time for all of us and we want you to know that our team is ready and here to help.

    Sincerely,
    All of us at My Benefit Advisor

     

  • 24 Mar 2020 9:26 AM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)
    We are all in this together and the only way to get past the current COVID-19 situation is to WORK together.

    One way to help ensure this crisis lasts no longer than it needs so we can all go back to our livelihoods, is to help the medical professionals by donating supplies that are so needed by those on the front lines.

    We are imploring businesses that have access to or a supply of N95 masks, eye gear, medical gowns, and medical gloves and do not anticipate the need to utilize these items in the near future to donate them to their local hospitals. At the moment, a shortage of these items is resulting in health care providers having to wear the same PPE for hours on end, heightening their risk of contracting the virus. 

    If you are able to assist in this crucial request, please email opportunities@hapevolve.comAny questions may be directed to Joe Tibbs, President of HAPEvolve, who is coordinating the effort on behalf of Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

    Thank you for your support and please share this message with your colleagues.

  • 23 Mar 2020 9:18 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    While the advice concerning model homes and sales centers does not appear to apply in Pennsylvania, the job site tips provided by the Center for Disease Control should be helpful to any builder granted a waiver to continue working.

    For Model Homes/Sales Centers: 

    1.  Model Home (sales centers) must be locked at all times and unlocked only to allow prospects with scheduled appointments to enter.

    2.  All models/sales centers must have the attached sign on the sales center door and front door.

    3.  All customer meetings with the exception of model tours are to be done “virtually” via the phone or computer (i.e. GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc) including contract meetings.

    4.  Models can only be staffed by one salesperson at a time and salesperson must not sit within eyesight of the door.

    5.  Only new home sales personnel and prospective homeowners are allowed to enter the models (realtors, existing homeowners, and construction personnel prohibited).

    6.  Salesperson is not to shake hands or stand within 6’ of anyone.

    7.  Prospects showing any symptoms of virus should be asked to leave the model immediately.

    8.  Wash hands and clean commonly touched surfaces (i.e. door knobs) frequently.

    9.  No more than 4 prospects from a max of two families in the model at one time. Avoid prospects from different families being in the same room at the same time.

    10.  Advise prospects not to touch anything while touring the models. 

    For Job Sites:

    1.  All work should be done while maintaining a 6 foot buffer in between employees. 

    2.  Limit job sites to the bare minimum number of employees as possible. Absolutely no large groupings of individuals. 

    3.  Instruct employees to stay home when sick

    4.  Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol

    5.  Do not share tools.

    6.  Do not share personal protection equipment (PPE).

    7.  Disinfect reusable supplies and equipment

    8.  Review and implement all CDC Guidelines. 

    9.  Make sure all employees are aware of the CDC guidelines and the importance of abiding by them. 

    CDC Guidelines: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employers.html
  • 23 Mar 2020 2:37 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    We wanted to share some updates to questions posed to the PA Department of Labor and Industry.

    Must construction on health care related facilities and required inspections stop? 

    Construction on health care facilities has been determined to be life sustaining business; therefore, code inspections services required for these activities should be considered life sustaining activities as well.

    Must installation of emergency tents on hospital grounds for coronavirus screening and required inspections stop?

    Inspection on emergency tents is also considered life sustaining business and may continue.

    Municipal employees doing plan reviews and inspections may continue, but must third parties must down?

    Third party agencies are permitted to continue to provide inspections for limited circumstances that include health care facilities, emergency repairs and work that is being conducted in connection with a DCED waiver found at the following link: online waiver application

    Municipalities are informing third parties that they expect them to continue performing their contracted duties. How should third parties respond to this?

    Third party agencies should indicate that they are permitted to continue to provide inspections for limited circumstances that include health care facilities, emergency repairs and work that is being conducted in connection with a DCED waiver in an effort to continue those services requested by the municipality.

    Inspections were already scheduled when the order to shut down was issued. Can these still be performed?

    Continued inspections would be dependent on the structures and use, and whether it is classified as an emergency repair. Currently the main exception is for health care facilities and emergency repairs to commercial and residential structures. If a construction project has received a waiver through DCED to continue work on the project, then inspections may continue.

     What should contractors who have ignored the order be told when they are requesting inspections?

    Contractors who ignore the order and request an inspection should be denied that request, and the requestor should be reminded of the governor’s orders that have suspended construction activities throughout the Commonwealth with the exception of healthcare facilities and emergency repairs to commercial and residential structures. The contractor should be advised to seek a waiver from DCED for the project/work.

    What should be the response to homeowners (doing their own work not covered by the order) when they call for an inspection?

    Repair and/or maintenance for customers in their homes is allowable under the Personal and Household Goods Repair and Maintenance section of the Governor’s order. Any inspection request that does not fall under this category should be denied unless the homeowner has secured a waiver from DCED.

  • 23 Mar 2020 9:39 AM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    PBA Members:

    We know that the news is moving so quickly that none of us can keep up and we appreciate all that you are doing to try and amplify the PBA message. In at least one area, we are becoming victims of our own success. Legislators are telling us that member emails are clogging their systems and preventing them from seeing other important messages. A few individuals may view that as a good thing. It isn’t. We have informed House and Senate leadership that we will not send further emails demanding legislative action. PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE EMAILING LEGISLATORS.

    I apologize if I sound rude; but it is vital that we don’t burn bridges with our legislative friends. We recognize that none of us “control” our members. Nevertheless, each of us has some measure of influence. Please understand that PBA wants you to stop emailing their elected officials immediately. Instead, please lean on the waiver process administered by DCED.

    From President Jon Sukonik:   "PBA has requested all its members stand down on the email call to action as our message was received loud and clear.  Legislators have told us that further emails will do more harm than good.  As members of the Association I am asking you to heed our request and allow the waiver process to work as intended.  Abusive actions being taken by industry members is undermining our attempt to gain relief from the Governor’s office.  In this time of health crisis, we need to be a cohesive industry focusing on the public health, safety and welfare not on economic interests.  PBA has been pursuing assistance based upon the public safety concerns associated with partially built product and the issues associated with buyers in transition between homes with nowhere live."

    Thank you all for your support during this challenging time.

    Dan Durden, CEO
    Pennsylvania Builders Association

  • 21 Mar 2020 10:07 AM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    WAIVER EXTENSION, REVISED TIMING OF ENFORCEMENT: Monday, March 23 at 8:00 AM

    March 20, 2020

     

    Updated Business Guidance
    Business Waiver Application Form
    FAQ on Business Guidance

     

    Harrisburg, PA – Due to the high volume of waiver requests, the Wolf Administration is delaying enforcement of Governor Tom Wolf’s order and the Secretary of Health’s order that all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania must close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

    Per Governor Wolf’s and Dr. Levine’s orders, businesses that were non-life sustaining were ordered to close their physical locations on March 19, at 8:00 PM. This order stands, only the enforcement timing will change and become effective on Monday, March 23, at 8:00 AM.

    Those businesses requesting clarification on whether they are defined as life-sustaining should check this list, email the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) customer service resource account at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov, or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH and select option 1 to reach DCED staff. For businesses that determine from the list that they are non-life sustaining, but would like to seek a waiver, there is an online waiver application.

    When a business completes a waiver form, a team of professionals at DCED will review each request and respond based on the guiding principle of balancing public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions. Those requesting a waiver will be notified via email if their operations may re-open. Businesses applying for a waiver must remain closed until a decision is made about their application.

    DCED offers working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Resources and information will be posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources as they become available. Yesterday, Governor Wolf announced the availability of low-interest loans for small businesses and eligible non-profits in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

    For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should follow www.governor.pa.gov and www.doh.pa.gov.

     

    https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/waiver-extension-revised-timing-of-enforcement-monday-march-23-at-800-am/

     

  • 20 Mar 2020 2:56 PM | Rick Cochran (Administrator)

    PBA Members:

    We realize that you all have many questions and concerns over the order from the Governor’s office concerning business closures.

    Please know that the PBA staff and leadership is working to find solutions to these challenges. We are talking with large and small builders, Executive Officers from across the state, state organizations representing related industries, NAHB, and elected officials at all levels. As of now, we don’t have a lot of information, but we are doing everything possible to get you answers and clarifications. The last thing we want to do is give you inaccurate or misleading information.

    In the meantime, we encourage you all to contact your elected officials to try and roll back some of the effects of the Governor’s order or, at least, to give our industry some clarification as to where the order applies and where it doesn’t. Reach out directly to the Governor’s office to seek answers to your specific questions and, more importantly, some relief from this threat of a total shutdown.

    Members who want to seek a waiver regarding the Governor’s closure order may email RA-dcexemption@pa.gov. To maximize your chances for success, we encourage you to stress the life, safety and health consequences of your inability to continue current work. Business owners who are not sure if they should close should use this email address ra-dcedcs@pa.gov.

    Again, we will provide additional information as soon as we have more.

    Thank you for your patience and please know that PBA is working for you.

    Stay safe,
    Jon Sukonik, 2020 President



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