New Code Could Mean Fire Sprinklers in New Homes

Wednesday, February 18th 2009, 10:06 pm
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The state fire marshal commission is considering mandating fire sprinklers in brand new homes, but the idea is not catching on with home builders.

Most states and cities follow the International Code Council's guidelines for both commercial and residential buildings.

Every so often the ICC updates that code. The 2009 version calls for a number of mandates including all new one and two family homes to be built with fire sprinklers starting 2011.

It's plenty of time to hash out the debate that's now sprung over sprinklers.

It isn't cheap building a new home and critics of the mandate argue adding sprinklers is a required expense neither they nor potential buyers want.

Out of 300 Jeff Click homes, only two customers have ever asked about getting sprinklers, most were told are turned off by the cost.

"$2 to $3 a square foot is what we, who have experience with that, have found it to cost," said Jeff Click, Central Oklahoma Home Builder.

Reports have cited the number to be $1.50 or lower, but Click said there's more to it.

"Homebuilders have to consider the water supply to the system, any sort of special insulation," Click said.

They also have to consider monitoring devices may come into play, including additional inspections and plumbing.

Having the little nozzles in all new homes would make fire marshals very happy.

"The stats are irrefutable they save lives, they save property," said Jerry Lojka of the Central Oklahoma Fire Marshal Association.

He said Oklahoma is behind the curve on sprinklers.

"Arizona has had residential sprinkler mandates for 20 years," Lojka said. "They've had it for 20 years."

The battle between a down housing market and safety is something both sides feel torn over.

"We're just concerned with how something like this would affect costs of homes," Click said.

The opposition said the code is a great idea.

"We're glad to see it coming in the code and is now mandated on the other hand we don't really want to fell like it's a power play," Lojka said.

Fire marshals said even if it's approved on the state level, each city can choose if and how to implement it. It could be a year before a decision is made.

Fire marshals said they've spoken to the insurance commission about increasing incentives for home builders who put in sprinklers. Home builders said the incentives won't be enough to offset cost.