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Flashpoint blog
Readers had lots to say in response to Peter Sells' request for feedback about whether the time is right to push for mandatory residential sprinklers.

January 7, 2009
By Carey Fredericks

r_peter_sells_close_upThose of you who have been following this blog and the FlashPoint
column (my sincere thanks to you all) will know that this writer and
Fire Fighting in Canada are advocates of residential sprinklers.

So the news that the International Code Council (ICC) has rejected an
appeal filed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which
would have kept requirements for residential sprinklers out of the
International Residential Code (IRC), is welcome news. One more domino
has fallen.

The appeal was not based on the technical merits of sprinklers or their
effects on the cost of housing, it was a procedural motion protesting
that firefighters should not have been credentialed as voting
governmental members of the ICC. Not being in that loop, I can’t
comment on the validity of the appeal but I certainly have an opinion –
big surprise – on whether firefighters should be considered
stakeholders on this issue. After all, who is tasked with saving lives
and protecting property in residential fires? Who risks life and limb
crawling down hallways and hoping they don’t flash over before the
child is found? Whose mission will become more effective and less
hazardous when residential sprinklers are mandated?

Those aren’t my questions for you today. Those are too easy. My question is this:
“With the current economic downturn expected to get worse before it
gets better, is this the right time to push for the inclusion of
requirements for residential sprinklers in the IRC and other codes?”

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Please feel free to answer that question and start a discussion on this blog. Here’s my answer:

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average house
price in the major markets in this country in October was down 10.9 per
cent year-over-year compared to October 2007. Since 2002, this same
housing price index has averaged an increase of 8.6 per cent each year.

The Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment released in September by the
Fire Protection Research Foundation determined an average cost of
US$1.61 per square foot for sprinkler installations in nine
representative communities across the U.S. and Canada. Some were
higher, due to factors such as well-water systems, which would require
upgrading. Some were much lower, including one community in
"Caleefohnya" where sprinklers are already required and contractor
costs have come down with the volume of work and competition.

So the economic argument would go like this: The impact on housing cost
right now would be two per cent, maybe three per cent depending on the
market in any given community. The market is down more than 10 per cent
from last year.  So the increase in cost would not even be visible to
the buyer, the house would still be tens of thousands of dollars less
expensive than before all this stuff hit the fan.  So the timing is
right. That, however, is not my complete answer. My complete answer is
that now is the right time, last year was the right time and next year
will be the right time.

The time is always right to do the right thing for the right reasons.

I wish the best of the season to all of you and a very safe and happy New Year.

COMMENTS

Lawrence
Written by Lawrence on 2009-01-06 17:19:10


Hi,
I am interested in fire protection and sprinkler system design.
However, before I devote my entire time to study in this industry I
need to know if there is potential jobs. If sprinklers systems will
soon be mandatory in new condos and new homes, it will be worthwhile
for me to study. Can anyone shine some light on this, please? My
background is automation & robotics, currently working as a CAD
operator with a tool design company. thanks. Lawrence
Ken Freiburger
Written by Ken Freiburger on 2009-01-06 06:35:01


It
is always the right time to install residential sprinklers.In 2005 I
built a 2800sq ft home in a rural setting and it cost about 10,000
dollars including up grades do to rural setting.With the cost savings
in insurance it should take about 10yrs.I was in the fire service for
35yrs.and have been there and seen what flash over can do.The time is
NOW.  
 
The best  
Ken Freiburger
Guest
Written by Guest on 2009-01-05 18:53:33


How
much does it cost to put in new kitchen cabinets, or a lawn sprinkler
system? Much less than the cost of a residential sprinkler system
without the insurance break, and the built-in life safety factor. Come
on guys and gals, it's a no brainer.
Written by Peter Sells on 2009-01-02 10:59:16


Residential
sprinklers in a rural setting, or even a suburban setting, would make
even more sense than in a dense urban environment. Your point about
multi-family occupancies is well-taken, but most fire deaths occur in
single-family homes. The longer response times and inherently complex
water supply logistics associated with rural firefighting are also
factors which scream out for sprinklers. As an example, the November
2008 fire in West Lincoln, Ontario which took the lives of a mother and
seven children is probably more representative of the fire risk in the
average Canadian community than is anything which happens in Toronto or
Vancouver. Whether those lives could have been saved by an investment
of a few thousand dollars is somewhat of a moot point, but preventing
further tragedies is not. 
 
The only reason I made mention of
the well water supply was to illustrate the range of costs of sprinkler
systems, not to alienate or exclude any communities. In fact, by making
such mention I acknowledged that some communities would have higher
costs, so I was recognizing that this is not a one-size-fits-all
solution. Here is an excerpt from the Home Fire Sprinkler Cost
Assessment: 
 
"The high end of this cost range
($3.66/sprinklered SF) represents a Colorado house on well water and a
system constructed with copper piping which utilized anti-freeze for
freeze protection during the winter. These costs include all costs to
the builder associated with the sprinkler system including design,
installation, and other costs such as permits, additional equipment,
and increased tap and water meter fees – to the extent that they
apply." 
Denny
Written by Denny on 2009-01-01 07:29:44


Now that there building houses out of sawdust&glue the demand for sprinklers has never been greater,
Guest
Written by Guest on 2008-12-31 18:03:20


After
28 years as a volunteer fire fighter, and 10 as Deputy Fire Chief, I
certainly won't argue with the value and benefits of residential
sprinkler systems, I find it rather interesting how lightly those not
impacted by it can brush off the issue of residences serviced by
on-site wells as opposed to gravity fed central water systems. It is
very easy for those with no understanding of this situation to
underestimate its importance and the probable cost. To simply state
they "will require some upgrade" with no further explanation is rather
unfair to those who have no choice in this matter.  
 
Can I
suggest that rather than alienate or disadvantage a huge proportion of
the North American population, the rural resident, which represents a
very smsll part of the totsl fire problem, focus this effort on the
multi-dwelling- unit structure where the actions of one resident can
have dire consequences on all the other innocent residents. It seems to
me that this would not only be much more productive in terms of fire
injury and death reduction, but would also be much easier legislation
to enforce and their long-term serviceability would be much easier to
ensure.
Jim Phelan
Written by Jim Phelan on 2008-12-31 15:53:04


The
Canadian Fire Service must never let up on the push to have Residential
Sprinklers Systems made manditory. It's about saving lives.

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