Anticipated Code Change Will Make Fire Sprinklers Mandatory / by peter podlas

The NYS Fire Prevention and Building Code Council is considering the adoption of the 2015 International Residential code in its entirety, especially the provision to require fire sprinklers for new one and two family homes.  With the advent of lightweight construction in new homes, they believe it is necessary to install home fire sprinklers in order to protect homeowners and firefighters.  If sprinklers are installed, residents will have time to escape the fire and firefighters will have time to fight the fire.  

However, not all are in total agreement. Executive Vice President of the New York State Builders Association, Lewis Dubuque, is fighting the proposed mandate.  He supports sprinklers in homes.  In fact, he's pushing for a 25 percent tax credit for consumers who choose to install sprinklers.  But, he says it should be just that - a choice.  Dubuque says the NYS Builders Association looked at fire-related fatalities in 2014 and found the average date of construction for the homes involved was 1935. He says, "The new homes are built to a newer code than older homes.  They are safer, healthier and we want to make sure that more people can afford a new home," he said.

Fire safety consultants do not agree.  Fire safety consultant Pete Lattanzio says the codes may be stricter, but the materials used to build new homes are lighter, cheaper and burn eight times faster, putting firefighters at greater risk of injury from collapsing floors and roofs.

Some facts to consider:

  • If you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.
  • People in homes with sprinklers are protected against significant property loss-sprinklers reduce the average property loss by about 70 percent per fire.
  • The average cost of installing home fire sprinklers for new construction is still a bit vague, ranging from $1.35 - $5.00 sq. ft.

Whatever your viewpoint, this code change, requiring fire sprinklers for new homes, could become effective January 1, 2016.