Commercial Construction

What You Need To Know About Commercial Building


The purpose and scope of the Township’s Zoning Ordinance has been described elsewhere on this website. In short, those considering making nonresidential improvements of any kind should consult either the Township Zoning Officer or the table of contents of the Township’s Zoning Ordinance to gain insight as to what kinds of issues may arise with the proposal for nonresidential improvements.


Subdivision And Land Development Ordinance

The purpose and scope of the Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) has been discussed elsewhere on this website. In short, any nonresidential improvement may be subject to full SALDO review. When the proposal is of such a minor nature so as to present no off-site impact, those whose projects might otherwise be subject to full SALDO review might consider approaching the Board of Commissioners for waiver from the full review process. To do that, however, one must first apply for SALDO review by submitting a completed application, along with the required amount of escrow. Any work the Township Engineer or Solicitor do in preparation to advise the Commissioners about the propriety of the waiver request will be deducted from that escrow.


Water And Sewer Fees

Any new nonresidential building, any expansion of a nonresidential use or building, or any intensification of a nonresidential use or building, may lead to additional water and sewer service connection charges (regardless of whether there is a physical change to the utility piping proposed). Call the Community Development Department if you have questions as to how these fees may apply to your proposal.


Construction Codes

South Whitehall Township has adopted Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code Act 45 of 2004. The Uniform Construction Code (UCC) adopts the International Code Council’s 2015 model codes with certain exceptions and references.

South Whitehall Township utilizes both in-house staff and third-party inspection agencies to review plans and inspect nonresidential buildings. Currently, our in-house staff reviews and inspects fire protection systems. The review and inspection of other building components, including electrical, accessibility, energy, HVAC, and plumbing is performed by our outside, third-party agencies.

When you submit full sets of building plans, provide four copies of everything. That enables us to provide copies to our in-house staff and our third-party agencies for simultaneous review.

At the time you submit your application for nonresidential building and/or HVAC projects, you will be required to also deposit escrow (along with a completed W-9) to cover third-party agency costs. The amount of the escrow will depend upon the size of your project (in terms of either cost or square footage, as deemed appropriate). This escrow amount is our best guess as to what the cost of our third-party agencies’ work could be. You will be refunded any balance remaining at the end of the project, but you will also be responsible for any bills that go beyond the initial escrow. When your escrow balance falls below a third of the original amount posted-and the project is not complete, we will require you to replenish the account to the full initial amount.

Our system has been developing over the last four years. Currently, we can provide your refund approximately 30 days after the project passes the final inspection. It is important that you call for your inspections in a timely way if you hope to get your refund in a timely way.

If you have questions about the status of your project, especially about the escrow, it is important that you refer to it by the case number. That case number is found in the upper right hand corner of your permit.

UCC Codes

The UCC Administration and Enforcement regulation has adopted the following codes for use throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, effective 12/31/2009. Only the appendices specified after each code name have been adopted (in addition to the code itself).

International Building Code 2015 (base code for all buildings and structures not regulated by the International Residential Code):
Chapter 1 is not adopted (most of its requirements are incorporated in Chapter 403 of the UCC regulation).
Chapter 27 (Electrical) requires that all electrical components, equipment and systems in buildings and structures covered by the IBC comply with the requirements of NFPA 70-2014, National Electric Code.
Chapter 30 (Elevators) is not adopted. Elevator requirements are found in Chapter 405 of UCC regulation.
Only Appendices E (Supplementary Accessibility Requirements) and H (2009) (Signs) are adopted.
Chapter 11 requires that buildings and facilities also comply with the accessibility requirements found in the ICC/ANSI A117.1-2009 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities standard.

International Energy Conservation Code 2015

International Existing Building Code 2015. No appendices are adopted..

International Fire Code 2015. Adopted only to the extent referenced in the International Building Code 2009.

International Fuel Gas Code 2015. Any LPG requirements are superseded by the requirements of Pennsylvania’s Propane and Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act (and regulations). Section 310.3 of the International Fuel Gas Code 2018 is also adopted.  No Appendices are adopted.

International Mechanical Code 2015. No Appendices are adopted.

International Performance Code for Buildings and Facilities 2009 (provides alternative compliance approach)

International Plumbing Code 2015. No Appendices are adopted.

International Residential Code 2015 (code for one- and two-family dwellings no more than 3 stories in height). No appendices are adopted.

International Wildland-Urban Interface Code 2015 (supplementary requirements that may be used to mitigate fire- and life-safety hazards in unique wildland areas)

International Swimming Pool and Spa Code 2015.  No appendices are adopted.

Accessing the International Codes.

The codes as published by the International Code Council are copyrighted and can be purchased from the Council, either online at:, or by calling the ICC publication office at 1-800-786-4452. The ICC also made copies of its codes accessible online, at no charge. You can access these online. Please note that this free service is very limited in terms of access (i.e., you will only be able to view one code section/subsection at a time, not whole pages) and search and print capabilities. If you want full access and features, you will either need to pay for full electronic access or purchase the desired code book(s).

Note carefully the following remarks regarding these codes.

The International Private Sewage Disposal Code 2015 and International Zoning Code 2015 are not adopted. However, in addition to the codes listed above, the International Property Maintenance Code 2015 (and any other property maintenance requirements) are also adopted. Enforcement of these requirements falls outside the scope of the UCC.

The Department has made several changes to the codes listed above. These relate to fire safety requirements in child day care facilities and the technical standards that apply to elevators and other lifting devices. See Section 403.23 and Chapter 405 of the UCC regulation for further details on these changes.

Act 13 of 2004 stipulates that the following stairway tread and riser requirements will apply in all buildings that fall within the scope of the International Residential Code, in all occupancies in Use Group R-3 and within dwelling units in occupancies in Use Group R-2: The maximum stairway riser height shall be 8 1/4 inches (210 mm), the minimum tread depth shall be 9 inches (229 mm); and, a 1-inch (25 mm) nosing must be provided on stairways with solid risers.

The UCC regulations provide for the use of an alternative to Chapter 11 of the International Residential Code (or Chapter 4 of the International Energy Conservation Code), to demonstrate compliance with the energy conservation requirements of the UCC. This alternative compliance path, which can be obtained by clicking on the link below, was developed by the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center at Penn State University and is entitled “Pennsylvania’s Alternative Residential Energy Provisions” (to date, released in three versions: 2003, 2006 and 2009).

Pennsylvania Alternative 2015 (if complying with the 2009 International Codes)

Non-Residential Permit Application Requirements

In order to be accepted, Permit Applications must contain all of the following:

  • Completed Permit Application – include correct address including Suite #, Cost of Construction, Description of Work.
  • Correct sets of stamped, engineered plans as follows: (Third Party Plan Review and Inspection).
    Four (4) complete sets of plans with Building/Zoning Permit.
    Four (4) sets of HVAC (Mechanical) plans with HVAC Permit.
    Four (4) sets of Plumbing plans with Commercial Plumbing Permit(include total number of fixtures on permit in “Description of Proposed Work”) – Contractor must be a licensed Master Plumber South Whitehall, or in a 1st Class Township or City.
  • Correct sets of stamped, engineered plans as follows: (In House Plan Review and Inspection).
    Commercial Electrical Permit Requirements.
    1. All commercial electrical plans (four sets required) shall bear the seal of a Pennsylvania licensed design professional.
    2. Permit applications to be filled out completely. This may require asking questions about areas not completed. The correct pricing of the permit requires a totally completed permit.
    3. Fire Alarm Permits require four sets of plans stamped by a Pennsylvania design professional and a Building Permit. These plans are not to be confused with the main Building Permit reviewed by Code Master. In addition an Electrical Permit is required with four sets of specification books showing the complete system, compatibility, and listing information. This can be included with main project Electrical Permit if all the required information is required.
    4. Electrical Permits are required for Phone and Data systems. These do not usually require specific plans.
    5. If HVAC work is to be done then an Electrical Permit for the low voltage wiring for these systems is required. No specific plans are required for these particular systems.
    6. Security systems, intercoms, etc. require an Electrical Permit. Security/ Camera Systems require four sets of specification books. No specific plans are required for these systems. Intercom systems, cable Television, etc. do not require plans or specification books.
    7. Nurse call systems require an Electrical Permit and four sets of specification books. These systems do not require plans.
    8. Access Controls consisting of Mag Locks requires a Building Permit with four sets of plans and three specification books. These systems also require an Electrical Permit with two sets of Specification Books. If it is an access control system without mag locks a Building Permit is not required. An Electrical Permit will be required for these systems along with two sets of Specification Books.
    9. Illuminated signs require a Sign Permit with four sets of a drawings sealed by a Pennsylvania design professional and an Electrical Permit. Sprinkler Systems and Fire Alarm Systems. Building Permit with four (4) sets of plans sealed by a Pennsylvania design professional.
  • Business Privilege License for Contractor
  • Certificate of Insurance showing Worker’s Compensation Insurance for Contractor (South Whitehall Township must be listed as the “Certificate Holder”) or a notarized affidavit indicating Workers Compensation insurance is not required.
  • Cash or check sufficient to cover permit fees.