The Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) praised a late-2007 Commonwealth Court ruling to uphold a lower court decision disapproving a local fire sprinkler
The Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) praised a late-2007 Commonwealth Court ruling to uphold a lower court decision disapproving a local fire sprinkler ordinance. Enacted by Schuylkill Township, the ordinance would have required fire sprinkler installation in all new construction and all structural alterations of 1,000 square feet or more. It was rejected by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas in August 2006.
Consumers are the big winners because this ruling helps hold down the cost of homes by preventing a government mandate requiring fire sprinklers in new construction, said PBA President Steve Black. Consumers still have the option to install fire sprinklers, he added.
The ruling also bolsters Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code, Black said, adding weight to the requirement that clear and convincing conditions be proved for a local government to exceed UCC building requirements. Some local governments were claiming local conditions that, in fact, were conditions common across the state, he said.
To justify requiring residential fire sprinklers, Schuylkill Township officials had argued that the township needed them more than other parts of the state because of traffic congestion, steep roadways along neighboring Valley Forge Mountain and a decline in local volunteer fire fighter ranks. But the Court of Common Pleas disagreed, noting: In passing the [Pennsylvania Construction Code] Act, the legislature chose not to mandate the use of automatic sprinkler systems in buildings across the commonwealth. If general or widespread conditions are sufficient to justify an exemption to the act, then the legislature would have mandated the use of automatic sprinkler systems and not made their use subject to a finding of a need for exemption.
The Commonwealth Court upheld this decision in its ruling. The code ensures the quality and safety of new home construction in Pennsylvania. If needless variances to the code are granted to various localities, the advantages of having a single building code for everyone will be lost. Plus, public tax dollars are wasted when local governments expend resources to develop unnecessary building ordinances, Black affirmed.
We want the public to understand that we are not opposed to the installation of fire sprinklers in homes. We do, however, oppose a government mandate requiring sprinklers. Since sprinklers would add to a home’s cost, we strongly feel this decision should be left as an option for consumers.
Û National Association of Home Builders