Fire Sprinklers in New Single Family Homes
The CT Code Amendment Subcommittee (CAS) voted 11-2 on October 13, 2010, to exclude the mandatory fire sprinkler section from the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC), which covers 1 & 2 family home construction. The CAS reports to the full CT Codes & Standards Committee, which can adopt or reject the CAS vote. The CAS vote is an important common sense victory for home builders and homeowners to keep fire sprinklers optional in new homes.... but this ongoing battle is not over. See House Bill 6378 in the 2011 state legislative session. See the minutes of the CAS meeting.
Fire Sprinkler Working Group: Part of the CAS vote on Oct. 13, 2010, included establishing a Working Group to study sprinkler mandate implementation issues. Developer and home builder, Bob Fusari, Sr., represented the HBRA of CT on this sprinkler-proponent dominated group (just see the report for the member list). On 10-20-2011, a final draft of the Working Group report was released (click here); see also a corrected section m (click here). Comments from Working Group members were requested by Oct. 29, 2011 (see HBA of CT's comments on final draft report).
HBRACT's Statement Opposing the Fire Sprinkler Mandate in the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) - made to the state's Code Amendment Subcommittee, of the Codes and Standards Committee (September 8, 2010) (this statement references many of the documents linked below).
See HBRACT's Talking Points to the CT State Legislature on mandatory fire sprinklers.
Facts About Fire Sprinklers (NAHB)
Smoke Alarms Work - brochure (NAHB); Smoke Alarms Work - website (NAHB)
CT Attorney General's Opinion 1992-023: State Fire Safety Code and State Building Code preempt the field and municipalities do not have the authority to require fire spinklers.
IRC HEARINGS ON FIRE SPRINKLERS a FAILURE, RIGGED by FIRE SPRINKLER PROPONENTS
In September 2008 the Final Action was taken on Proposals for the 2009 I-Codes, model building codes that CT adopts. There are many proposed changes of concern to the members of NAHB, most importantly proposals to mandate fire sprinklers in all one- & two-family homes and townhouses.
NAHB's Appeal of ICC's Process of Adopting Mandatory Fire Sprinklers in 1&2 Family Homes
2009 IRC: Hijacking the Code Development Process to Create the Best Code Money Can Buy
Note: NAHB's Appeal was summarily denied in a 1 page statement by ICC's Board of Appeals
Fire code officials from across the country who are ICC voting members attended the ICC hearings where their votes decided the matter. To sway the vote against builders and homebuyers, sprinkler advocates recruited a large number of fire officials to attend, directing them to vote in favor of mandatory requirements regardless of any concern raised. In 2007’s concentrated effort, the sprinkler advocates were unable to meet the required two-thirds majority to overturn the committee’s action, but they achieved success in 2008 and a mandatory requirement to install fire sprinklers in all new homes, single-family included, is contained in the 2009 International Residential Code. The CT Codes & Standards Committee was considering adoption of the 2009 IRC during 2010 and 2011 and pending a final decision early in 2012. State by State Status of 2009 IRC Adoption relative to sprinkler mandate - as of July 26, 2011 - 35 states have removed the mandate; only 2 (CA and MD) have approved it, and MD allows counties to remove it ... and many have.
While the ICC Hearings were a sham due to the sprinkler advocates (primarily sprinkler manufacturers who stand to make $3 billion on a nationwide mandate), the CT Codes & Standards Committee has the authority to adopt exemptions from the ICC Codes. We strongly urge them to exempt out the mandatory sprinkler requirement.
In addition to the links above, the following documents provide more detailed information:
Fire Sprinkler Q&A
(NAHB) (Common questions regarding fire safety and residential fire sprinklers)
The Priced-Out Effect of Raising Interest Rates or Costs
(NAHB, 2005) (Demonstrates how home buyers are priced out of the market when costs are raised; meaning for the fire sprinkler debate that many homeowners will have to remain in their older homes, not able to buy new. That is, they'll have to stay in older homes that are at higher risk of producing fire deaths and injuries. Thus, a fire sprinkler mandate for only new homes will increase the overall societal rate of fire deaths and injuries.
ALERT to members concerned with a potential fire sprinkler mandate for new homes:
Please contact your local elected officials to let them know fire officals across the country were encouraged to attend the ICC hearings and voted for the national mandate, which adds significant expense to the already high cost of housing in Connecticut. If you have a personal relationship with your state and local elected officials, please contact them directly to make such an appeal. Below is a sample letter you can send to local and state officials if you aren't able to speak to them directly.
Please act today -- the State Codes & Standards Committee is reviewing the 2009 IRC for adoption. SAMPLE LETTER:
Dear [Insert Name of Elected Official]:
As a member of the Home Builders & Remodlers Association of Connecticut, which represents 1,100 firms in my industry, I would like to bring to your attention a matter that I believe will have a significant impact on the citizens of Connecticut when they seek to buy a new home in the future. There is an effort underway by proponents of fire sprinklers to achieve a national mandate for these costly systems in all new housing. Many states have not followed suit and are exempting the fire sprinkler mandate when adopting the national model ICC code (i.e., the 2009 IRC).
Fire chiefs and other fire officials were encouraged to show up in overwhelming numbers to vote for adding such a mandate to the International Residential Code (IRC) at code hearings held September 20-21, 2008, in Minneapolis, MN. Supported by sprinkler manufacturers who stand to make $3 billion if the national mandate is put into place by the states, and with the IRC being used throughout the U.S. to regulate residential construction (including CT), this would severely impact the ability of many hard-working citizens to purchase a new home.
I bring this to your attention as an elected official to make you aware of the situation and the potential impact on the citizens of our community and state because:
- Home fire sprinklers are a significant expense, and mandating such systems in all new housing will have an unreasonable impact on affordable housing, without having any immediate effect on reducing fire fatalities.
- More lives will be saved through fire prevention education programs and an increased effort by the local firefighters to promote and ensure that each home has and maintains working smoke alarms.
- More homeowners die each year from smoke inhalation than from burns. Smoke alarms detect and alert the occupants in the event of both a smoldering and a fast flaming fire, while a fire sprinkler system will only activate if the fire grows large enough.
- Extensive research shows that fire deaths occur in older homes, not new homes, and this is because building codes were updated some years ago to require hard-wired smoke detectors with battery backup and other fire safety features, such as blocking wall penetrations to prevent the spread of fires in new homes. CT's own legislative fire sprinkler task force found that mandatory sprinklers will cost greater than $400,000,000 to save 1 life. Sprinkler interests, who also sat on the task force, could not then and cannot now refute these numbers.
I hope you share my concern about this push to mandate residential fire sprinklers. If you do, I would ask you follow up with the fire officials in our jurisdiction. Ask them to request the CT Codes & Standards Committee to exempt mandatory fire sprinklers from the 2009 IRC. And, ask our state legislators to also prevent this unjustified mandate in our building code by adopting a statutory prohibition on mandated fire sprinklers in new homes, following what other states have done.
Thank you for the opportunity to bring this matter to your attention. If you have any questions or concerns, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you.