Citing costs as high as $7/sq. ft. and significant installation and maintenance problems, National Association of Home Builders representatives at the
Citing costs as high as $7/sq. ft. and significant installation and maintenance problems, National Association of Home Builders representatives at the most recent International Code Council hearings resoundingly defeated proposals to mandate fire sprinklers in one- and two-family homes in the International Residential Code (IRC). The decision was made despite emotional pleas from fire service representatives, but no local building officials, who reiterated support for keeping the fire sprinkler language in the IRC appendix. Arguments supporting the mandates were conspicuously not based on facts, NAHB contends, and included some that have been disproved by local home builder groups fighting fire sprinkler mandates in California, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Frank Thompson of Sweetwater Builders, Cranberry Township, Pa., noted, Overall, we are doing a very good job with existing fire safety measures. Building officials are concerned that mandates do not address the issue of how to install sprinklers in areas where public water systems are not available, he adds. Sprinklers become much more expensive when you add pumps or holding tanks. We also don’t have answers for making these systems work in cold climates. There may be an opportunity for the fire service and builders to at least sit down and identify the hurdles.
No studies have demonstrated that fire sprinklers are more effective than smoke alarms, NAHB affirms. In addition to systems’ high cost and effect on affordable housing, association representatives note design, maintenance and legal concerns described in a policy resolution approved by the NAHB board at its fall meeting. More challenges to the group’s position are expected at the May 2007 ICC hearings. We hope before then there is increased dialog [between proponents and opponents], Thompson says. NAHB will continue its long-standing and successful efforts to oppose fire sprinkler mandates, he adds, but at the same time must advocate for more affordable systems where mandates already exist.