Mandatory Fire Sprinkler Proposal Rejected in New York
Citing unresolved technical issues and its negative impact on housing affordability, the New York State Residential Code Technical Subcommittee has rejected a proposal that would have recommended to the full New York State Uniform Fire and Building Code Council that residential fire sprinklers be required in all new one- and two-family dwellings in the 2009 state residential code.
Appendix P of the International Residential Code (IRC) includes requirements for the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes that comply with NFPA13D, a standard issued by the National Fire Protection Association.
Appendices of model codes, such as the IRC, contain optional requirements and must be specifically adopted by a jurisdiction before becoming mandatory components of the code.
Lew Dubuque, director of communications and government relations for the New York State Builders Association, praised the technical subcommittee’s decision and the efforts of association members Richard Schunk and John Hofelich to educate the subcommittee members. Philip LaRocque, the HBA’s executive vice president, and Steve Orlowski of the NAHB Construction Codes and Standards staff, were also integral to the efforts, he said.
NYSBA also successfully used a study showing that the average house in New York with a fire fatality was built in 1940.
“The subcommittee had the wisdom to continue to allow fire sprinklers as an option for those home owners who want them,” LaRocque said.
NAHB has long opposed mandates for residential fire sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes for the same reasons that the New York technical subcommittee members rejected the measure in their meeting on Oct. 25 in Albany.
For example, installation costs can be high as $5 to $7 per square foot; homes in rural areas without municipal water connections may require extra pumps, a generator and water storage tank for the fire sprinklers to work effectively; and maintenance requirements can be onerous for many home owners.
“Our members will install residential fire sprinklers when customers ask for them, but there are still so many questions that need to be resolved before fire sprinklers are mandated in every new home constructed,” said Eric Borsting, chair of the NAHB Construction Codes and Standards Committee.
“For that reason, we will continue to work with all parties: code officials, fire officials and fire sprinkler manufacturers and installers, to address these issues and seek alternatives,” he said. “And we encourage all home owners to install and also to maintain their smoke alarm systems — so if a fire does occur, occupants will be warned so that they can get out of the house and escape injury.”
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.