A measure to add fire sprinklers to International Residential Code guidelines for single- and two-family homes failed during a recent hearing in Rochester,
A measure to add fire sprinklers to International Residential Code guidelines for single- and two-family homes failed during a recent hearing in Rochester, N.Y. Fire sprinkler requirements will remain in an IRC appendix and subject to local jurisdiction, according to the National Association of Home builders in Washington, D.C. Speakers at the hearing noted that home builders and code officials opposed to mandating residential fire sprinklers have too many unanswered questions about systems’ reliability, installation requirements, maintenance, inspection procedures and long-term functionality to be able to support an IRC mandate.
However, NAHB reports that building officials are finding the arguments of fire-sprinkler advocates increasingly persuasive, thus putting the onus on home builders to continue to emphasize the effectiveness of the safety measures being incorporated into today’s homes, plus the importance of working smoke alarms and fire safety education. In its push to keep fire sprinklers solely the choice of home buyers, versus code-mandated add-ons, the association has cited the superior track record of smoke alarms in saving occupants from home fires, and sprinklers’ effect on housing affordability. One association member noted that in Utah, fire sprinklers can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the cost of home Û money otherwise available for landscaping, premium flatwork or host of other discretionary trade ups.
Lee Schwartz, executive vice president for government relations for the Michigan Association of Home Builders, testified that Habitat for Humanity officials in his state voted unanimously to oppose moving fire sprinkler requirements from the appendix to the main body of the code because of affordability and maintenance issues. In a letter to code officials, Habitat of Michigan CEO Ken Ben added, Many of our affiliates find they need to conduct several sessions of maintenance classes for some of our home owners to understand even basic home upkeep, such as changing filters on furnaces and cleaning out gutters, to say nothing of the original cost [of fire sprinklers] to the family. By raising the cost of the home and setting forth another barrier in the way of those in the greatest need to afford a home, this requirement would harm our mission of increasing the capacity to building simple, decent homes in Michigan.