Archive for Friday, October 31, 2008

Fire sprinkler systems in new homes could one day be mandatory

Communities across the country may be inching closer to requiring fire sprinklers in all newly-built single-family homes. That includes Lawrence.

October 31, 2008


On the street

Do you think the city should require fire sprinklers in all new single-family homes?

No. I don’t think they should require them to spend the extra money. I think it should be up to the person paying for the home.

More responses

In the future, when Lawrence homeowners talk about their sprinkler system, they may not be talking about the one in their yard.

Instead, new single family homes in the city may be routinely equipped with fire sprinkler systems.

The country's largest building code organization recently approved new regulations that would require all single-family homes constructed after 2010 to be equipped with sprinkler systems.

The new regulations set up a big decision for city commissioners because the city can choose to exempt itself from the requirement.

"There obviously will be opponents to it," said Rich Barr, the city's fire marshal. "And I'm not sure there will be a lot of proponents, other than the fire service."

The issue, primarily, is financial.

Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Association, said her group would vigorously oppose the regulation. She said her group is concerned the new requirement could add several thousand dollars to the cost of a new home during a time when new houses already are tough to sell.

"I don't really know how it could be a worse time to add this," Flory said. "This is a horrible, horrible housing market."

Estimates for how much a sprinkler system would add to the cost of a home vary. A study sponsored by the Fire Protection Research Foundation found that the average cost to install a sprinkler system in a new home was $1.61 per square foot, or $3,220 for a 2,000 square foot home. But Flory said a survey by the national homebuilders association found costs to range from $2.66 per square foot to $6.88 per square foot. That would add $5,000 to $13,000 to a home's price.

Barr, who has sprinklers in his home, said the costs are manageable and could, if buyers choose, be offset by making choices in others areas of construction, such as choosing a lesser grade of countertop or substituting carpet for wood floors.

And Barr said there is no doubt that fire sprinklers are among the most effective ways to protect lives and property.

"It's like having a firefighter in your house 24 hours a day," Barr said.

Flory said builders do understand the life-safety benefits of fire sprinklers, but said there may be more cost-effective ways to promote safety.

She said the National Center for Health Statistics reports that over the last 20 years fire-related fatalities have decreased by 54 percent. She credits less expensive regulations - such as requiring hard-wired smoke alarms and the use of building materials with higher fire ratings - for the decline.

"We don't oppose everything because it adds costs," Flory said. "But we do want to strike a reasonable balance between cost and benefits."

Barr, though, said fire sprinklers provide the added benefit of protecting property by putting out or containing fires before they turn into a blaze. That, in turn, makes it less likely that firefighters are injured battling a fire, he said.

Currently, the city does require fire sprinklers in any new apartment buildings of three units or more, and in most commercial and industrial buildings.

City commissioners likely won't start seriously debating the issue of whether to require sprinklers in single family homes until late 2009.


LA_Ex 9 years, 7 months ago

Sorry for the typo. It should be pay, not par in the last paragraph.

flyin_squirrel 9 years, 7 months ago

no cities currently have this and i doubt many will adopt it, except lawrence.

indythinker 9 years, 7 months ago

What's everyone so worked up about?? Read the article. It's for NEW homes built after 2010. Unless anyone here is going to be in the market for a brand new home, it isn't going to affect you. And if you are lucky enough to be able to afford a new home then, you'll save thousands on insurance rates over time. Stop whining.

indythinker 9 years, 7 months ago

Firemedic301:All good points...but c'mon. Make your job easier?? Don't tell me you don't love a good structure fire. I know better.

gphawk89 9 years, 7 months ago

Has anyone ever seen the interior of a building after a sprinkler system has been activated? One where there has been water sitting in and rusting the pipes for twenty years? I think I'd rather level a burned house and rebuild from scratch than try to salvage one "saved" by a sprinkler system (or by firefighters, for that matter).Change your smoke detector batteries regularly, test the detectors regularly, have a well-thought-out escape plan, and pay your insurance premiums. Your life is way more important than your "stuff".

John Hamm 9 years, 7 months ago

OMG!No, NO, NO!Soon radon detectors the fire extinguishers. Just continuously driving the cost of home up."Well if you can't afford all the extras we insist upon, you'll just have to build a cheaper house." Rich Barr, the city's fire marshal paraphrased.

FMT6488 9 years, 7 months ago

Brilliant!!! Just Brilliant!!! Just as the economy should be stabilizing, a bunch of rich politicians have to give anyone buying a new home something to look forward to >>>> added costs (The sprinkler system), but also the cost of maintaining the system as well...

AjiDeGallina 9 years, 7 months ago

Right now, if someone's home burns, the losses are, in a sense, socialized.We all pay higher premiums.If in the process someone is disabled, our tax dollars go to help pay. For injuries, our health insurance goes up.If a parent dies, we usually help assume the cost of raising any children.The same goes for people who do not want to wear seatbelts or helmets.It is a good sound bite to call it a nanny state, but if it happens to you, you will expect me to pay higher insurance premiums to cover your loss, to pay my taxes to cover your disability.However, I realize those who use terms like nanny-state really do not care about facts, just their opinion so they will re-write whatever facts there are to fit that opinion.They are called liars.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 7 months ago

I think you're right on the money, classclown. Both about the insurance companies and about the garden hose.

classclown 9 years, 7 months ago

How about I run a garden hose up the wall and across and have a garden sprinkler attached to it?

Tony Kisner 9 years, 7 months ago

Wow,I would like to see an actuary work up the risk vs. value on this one. I would bet no way it has a positive pay-back. The cost side would need to include the cost of cleaning up all the water damage, in particular when I burn my popcorn and set off the smoke detector and drop 5,000 gallons of water in my house.If it is a personal safety issue, it would be better to mandate refrigerators that won't open unless you have walked a couple miles each day. More lives would be saved.

absolutelyridiculous 9 years, 7 months ago

Is this so we don't have to buy new firetrucks? Yet another regulation so we don't have to take responsibility. This is the most dysfunctional community I've ever lived in.

gccs14r 9 years, 7 months ago

What about 3/4"? Even if the meter is 1", older houses (such as mine) often have smaller pipe coming in.

hipper_than_hip 9 years, 7 months ago

$2.66 sq ft - $6.88 sq ft is a considerable spread; these prices reflect the number of qualified installers in a given area. If the regulation passes, expect the number of qualified installers to increase and then watch the prices fall.

gccs14r 9 years, 7 months ago

They could instead require that all structural elements of new construction be fireproof. Stone would be a good material and wouldn't disintegrate on contact with water. We need to get away from being a disposable society, building things to be only good enough for now and leaving an expensive mess for future generations.

hipper_than_hip 9 years, 7 months ago

At 5 ft/sec (max city water velocity), a 1" pipe will flow about 12 gal/min, which isn't enough to put out a house fully engulfed in fire, but it might be enough to knock back a minor blaze until the fire department shows up, which I think is the intent.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 7 months ago

Many of the other cities and towns don't have building codes at all. But of those that do (not just in Kansas, but nationwide) tend to adopt most or all of one model building code or another, so it should be fairly widespread soon enough.

skinny 9 years, 7 months ago

Do any of the other cities in the state of Kansas do this?

jenner 9 years, 7 months ago

I have to ask to those of you complaining, don't any of you value the lives of your family? I would much rather be less selfish, by choosing lower grade interior finishes to replace the cost with a sprinkler system that could save our lives as well as our property. My house burnt to the ground 2 days before Christmas when I was almost 4 years old. Thankfully we escaped unharmed, but we lost everything. We had to start over. Is that worth having something nicer somewhere else in your home?For God's sake, people...

gccs14r 9 years, 7 months ago

One thing not mentioned is that a 1" water meter isn't going to be enough to feed a sprinker system.

monkeyhawk 9 years, 7 months ago

Then how long will it be before the city overreaches and mandates installation of sprinkler systems prior to the resale of any house? Maybe you can recall the attempt by the city to overlay the FEMA floodplain with their own, which would lower many owner's property values and force them to buy expensive flood insurance. In retrospect, we can understand what that was all about. This proposal, which the CC will probably jump right on, seems to smell the same way.

pissedinlawrence 9 years, 7 months ago

This is such a great idea,Look at how many homes are completely destroyed every year and how many people are killed.People need to stop complaining about the cost and maintenance because all the money in the world will not bring back a life.

firemedic301 9 years, 7 months ago

There are two types of systems. Type 1 is a dry system. These will activate when the fusible link melts and the drop in air pressure opens the valve and water fills the system. This is in place in areas with temps that can get below freezing. The other type is a wet system where the water is in the pipes. As for the comment of flooding your house when you burn the popcorn, it won't happen unless you have the wrong system installed. You have to have high enough temperatures to melt the link that keeps the sprinkler head shut. Once it opens however it will be a mess out of that specific head unless you have a deluge system installed and then it comes out of every head. Nowadays residental sprinkler systems can be plumbed into your homes water system so one minute the water can be in the sprinkler piping ( which is common PVC) and the next minute can be running out of your tap. This eliminates the rusty nasty water someone was talking about earlier. I know people are throwing a fit about the cost, but it would make my job alot easier if every residence has them. Plus if it costs a typical residence $5-13K are you saying your family isn't worth that to you. Some insurance companies will give a credit for having the system in your house. Oh yeah don't forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors this weekend too!;)

classclown 9 years, 7 months ago

Seriously, I imagine now that this is out there, insurance companies will start mandating houses have these systems or impose higher rates on the homeowners that don't have them.

pissedinlawrence 9 years, 7 months ago

I lost my 5 month old child, everything, in a fire. Please install these in new homes and to you complaining about your popcorn, learn how to cook and give your children a hug. You must be a moron.

LA_Ex 9 years, 7 months ago

Obviously the majority of the posters here have never lost everything they own in a fire. Seems to me that if you put a sprinkler system in your house it can keep your entire house from burning down and turn it into just damaging ONE ROOM. Too me that just makes sense. As for the water damage, I think the fire department still responds and once they see the fire is out in that one room, they can shut the water off. I'm guessing that less water comes out of a sprinkler than a fire hose. But since the sprinkler gets activated early on when the fire is smaller, it should take less water to put it out. So the water damage should be less. Add to that the fact that it could keep family members ALIVE. Think about this. Your daughter's 2nd floor bedroom is on the far end of the hallway and there is a bathroom between her room and your bedroom which is on the other end of the hallway. Something in the bathroom catches fire so the fire is between your room and hers. How do you get her out? If there was a sprinkler in the bathroom, the fire would have been out before this tragedy happens. Before you say the chances of this exact scenario happening are slim, you're right. But it could happen. I'd rather sleep well at night knowing that my children are protected.My grandparents have a sprinkler system in their 50 year old KC home. While the city may require a business' sprinkler system to be tested, they don't require it for theirs. They do have it tested about every 5 years though on the recommendation of my uncle who is a retired fire chief. The system they have is a dry system and it has never accidentally gone off.I can't help but compare this to all the safety equipment on cars that we par for. Airbags, seatbelts, better engineering, safety glass, etc. All of this adds to the cost of a car yet we scoff at adding less than $10k to the cost of a new house. Yes, you have a greater chance of being in a car wreck than having your house catch fire, but think of everything that is lost in a house fire. Wedding photos, pictures of the kids growing up, souvenirs from family vacations, family heirlooms, all that info on your computer, pets & possibly family members. How do you replace that stuff? Yes your insurance will buy new furniture and clothes but that other stuff is gone forever.

The_Voice_of_Reason 9 years, 7 months ago

Between $3,000 and $13,000 to possibly save lives and probably save more than that in fire damage? Sounds worth it to me....

Bob Forer 9 years, 7 months ago

'My house burnt to the ground 2 days before Christmas when I was almost 4 years old. Thankfully we escaped unharmed, but we lost everything. We had to start over. Is that worth having something nicer somewhere else in your home?For God's sake, people:'For God's sake, Jenner, its called Insurance.

LA_Ex 9 years, 7 months ago

crazyks, If your wedding album is in the room with the fire then yes it will probably get water damaged. If it is the room NEXT to the room on fire, then it won't get water damaged. The sprinkler only goes off in the room with the fire. Since the sprinkler gets activated early on, less water is needed to put out the fire. What kind of fire does water not work? Electrical? Wouldn't the breaker trip if there was a short causing the fire to start. After that it isn't an electrical fire anymore. gt would be a normal old fire. Right? Isn't the point to put the fire out BEFORE it becomes bigger?

LA_Ex 9 years, 7 months ago

bndairdundat, why would the water line running to my house need to supply a pumper truck? Why wouldn't they use the fire hydrant outside my house? Also, have you ever priced a sprinkler for a house, or just a business? I've taken the liberty of looking up some sights since most people won't do it for themselves. one is a news release regarding cost per square foot.

Linda Endicott 9 years, 7 months ago

"but think of everything that is lost in a house fire. Wedding photos, pictures of the kids growing up, souvenirs from family vacations, family heirlooms, all that info on your computer, pets & possibly family members. How do you replace that stuff? Yes your insurance will buy new furniture and clothes but that other stuff is gone forever."Of all the things you mentioned, only the pets and family members would be able to survive the sprinkler system as opposed to a fire. All those other things would still be utterly ruined by just water. If insurance companies are giving people credits if they have a sprinkler system installed, do they also pay out to replace things lost due to water damage if the sprinkler system is activated?I can understand this for multiple story buildings, and places like groups homes, etc.. In a building with multiple apartments, for example, you have no control over the level of fire safety practiced by your neighbors. But I'm afraid it isn't practical for single family dwellings. And even a sprinkler system is no guarantee that a building won't still burn depends on the cause of the fire, the location, and what if any flammable materials may be in the home. Water will not put out every kind of fire.

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