Connecticut Lawmakers Reject Sprinkler Mandates

Filed in Codes and Standards by on March 11, 2016 1 Comment

smoke detectorThe Connecticut General Assembly Public Safety Committee has rejected a state Senate bill that would authorize local governments to mandate fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes.

Thursday’s vote was a victory for the Home Builders & Remodelers of Connecticut and other consumer advocates who have long held that the cost of installation does not sufficiently correspond with the amount of safety and security fire sprinklers add.

And it’s yet another reason for home builders in all states to ensure that code officials are ready to vote for safe, sensible codes by registering as Governmental Voting Members with the International Code Council (ICC) by March 18.

‘You Can’t Deny the Numbers’

It’s the seventh time in 12 years that groups of firefighters, sprinkler installers, pipe fitters and other pro-mandate groups have been defeated in their efforts to mandate residential sprinklers statewide or to insert a “local option” so local governments can alter the state residential code to require sprinklers.

Each time, state officials have been convinced that mandated residential sprinkler systems are not worth the cost.

“The benefits of smoke detectors are huge. It costs about $600 a house to install hard-wired smoke detectors with battery back-ups, and they are 99.6% effective in preventing fatalities,” said state EO Bill Ethier. “Fire sprinkler systems bring that up to 99.8%, but they cost about $15,000-$20,000 for the average single-family home. Six dollars a square foot. It’s a huge extra cost for a tiny incremental increase in life safety. You can’t deny the numbers.”

This week, ICC released all the proposals that have been submitted by code officials, trade associations, product manufacturers and others for the next round of International Residential Code hearings.

The proposals include three submissions that would remove the mandate for fire sprinklers in one- and two-family homes, and one that would make the requirements even more stringent. This guarantees that fire sprinklers will continue to be part of the building codes debate throughout 2016.

The cost-effectiveness argument used in Connecticut has been successful in other states where officials chose to strike it from the model code before adopting it, or state legislators overrode attempts by interest groups to add it back in.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that code officials register with ICC so they are able to vote – Because they are more familiar with the costs of construction and mandates that benefit product manufacturers more than home owners, they are more likely to vote for sensible code proposals.

Use these NAHB resources to contact your code official. For more information on the code development process, contact Neil Burning. To learn about NAHB’s fire sprinkler toolkit, contact Daniel Buuck.

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  1. Mark Turner says:

    Fire sprinklers are far more likely to cause catastrophic water damage than to ever extinguish a fire in an average single family detached hoe. I appreciate the need for sprinklers in commercial buildings, but it is time to conclude the discussion about sprinklers in standard residential construction.

    At a time when home affordability is more of a concern than ever, it is time to stop adding things to homes in the name of safety. As this article stated, we are no longer able to create any meaningful safety gains of any variety at a reasonable cost. All of the obvious bases have been covered and it is time for people who earn their living trying to come up with the next “new safety thing” to find other employment. We are as safe as we need to be.

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