Smoke Alarms, Not Sprinkler Mandates, Says NAHB

When Fire Protection Engineering magazine asked NAHB to discuss advances in home safety that have led to a continual reduction in fatal fires, your association was ready and eager.

“Our members are proud to produce homes built to building codes designed to keep their occupants safer than homes built by previous generations,” said senior program manager Dan Buuck in an article published in the Q2 2016 issue.

“When home owners combine these advances with proper maintenance, homes stay safer. And as more of the existing housing stock that doesn’t include these improved fire safety features is replaced, this trend will continue,” he said.

And while mandates for fire sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes have been part of the International Residential Code since 2009, it should not be a surprise that the overwhelming majority of states have amended the code to make them voluntary. They’ve cited affordability (the systems cost thousands of dollars) and cost-effectiveness as their main reasons — concerns that NAHB has also expressed.

“It is a sad irony when Americans cannot afford to be safe,” Buuck wrote. “Families who cannot qualify to purchase homes due to the increased costs from well-meant but expensive, and ultimately unnecessary, safety features will remain in housing that is less safe because it was built to less stringent code requirements,” and tend to be furnished with outdated appliances, space heaters and other fire risks.

“We take our code development responsibilities seriously. We must ensure that new homes are safe, but not just available to the wealthy.”

Read the full article here.

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  1. Al Audette says:

    Good job Dan, and good for them including you and NAHB in their article. Reading the rest of the publication was useful as well. I think some of their comments regarding green building, interior home furnishings, electric vehicle charging stations and the energy code may help us out here in WA State. Good read.

  2. Jeffrie A. WIlkinson says:

    The only reason that States cite affordability is the false costs that the NAHB have been providing.

    • NAHB Now says:

      The costs that NAHB generally cite (for example, in this article: http://www.nahbclassic.org/generic.aspx?sectionID=734&genericContentID=166135&channelID=311) come from studies sponsored by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. In the foundation’s latest cost assessment (http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/files/research/research-foundation/research-foundation-reports/suppression/homefiresprinklercostassessment2013.pdf?la=en), the average cost of a home fire sprinkler system to a builder is $6,026. NAHB would usually cite this average, although we might occasionally mention the maximum cost of a system in that study, $21,000. You have to be careful about citing the maximum cost, as it is undoubtedly represents an unusual case. It may still be relevant in a discussion about building codes, however, which, once adopted, apply to all new homes, even the unusual ones. The above numbers are summarized conveniently on NFPA’s website here: http://www.nfpa.org/research/fire-protection-research-foundation/projects-reports-and-proceedings/suppression/home-fire-sprinklers/home-fire-sprinkler-cost-assessment-final-report.

      • Bill Ethier says:

        Here in CT, where everything seems to cost more, we really don’t care what the national “research” shows to be the average cost of sprinkler systems. We use real time quotes from licensed sprinkler installers to real builders using real home plans. If the system follows code requirements, quotes are routinely in the $4 to $6 + per sq. ft. range, or $15,000 to $21,000 for the average size new homes that are built here. If sprinklers were mandated, it’s a guarantee that those quotes would go even higher. Not “false” costs. Perhaps sprinkler proponents – given that they seem to always claim systems are less expensive that they truly are – would be willing to also accept price controls at, say, a maximum of $1.60 to $2.00 per sq. ft. to go along with a mandate (i.e., the “false” low costs that have been promoted here by sprinkler proponents). Bottom line is Dan is correct (good article Dan); new homes are much more fire safe than older housing stock. The vast majority of both fires and fire deaths occur in older homes (because, again, they are not built with the fire safety features of new homes) and, therefore, the cost/benefit of mandating sprinklers in new homes is illogical, irrational and could be more dangerous by keeping more people in our older housing stock.

  3. Bill says:

    I could not agree more with the notion that fire sprinklers should be voluntary. I am a builder and I would not install fire sprinklers in my own house if you paid me. Fire sprinklers are like any other system that can fail from time to time and we are talking about water in the ceiling – under pressure.

    There is also the real problem of sprinklers going off for a myriad of reasons having nothing to do with a fire. The result can be tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage and often the loss of irreplaceable objects.

    Sprinklers are expensive and problematic requirement; let’s make them voluntary for those who think they are worth the risk..

  4. Jeffrie A. WIlkinson says:

    I hear the chatter of opponents every day. I hear the talk about newer homes are safer than older homes. I’m just not sure if any of you opponents have ever entered a home that is being consumed by fire. I have and to tell you the truth I’d rather go into a burning home that was built in the mid 1900’s than one that is built today. With the allowance of light weight construction newer homes burn much faster than older homes causing the potential (probable) collapse in a much quicker time. The probability of an occupant getting out of the home safely has been reduced by this light weight construction and the probability of a firefighter being injured or possibly killed has increased.
    Please don’t tell me how safe these homes are until you’ve actually experienced it.

  5. @Bill, You are putting the lives of your clients and family at risk for the possibility of the system leaking. There is the same risk of your pipes leaking, faulty electrical or any other system in your house. But this is the only system in the house that protects your family.

    It is a shame that you are short sighted because you are fearful of a faulty system.

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