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Ontario developer to build sprinklered homes

June 6, 2013, Toronto – A Toronto-area developer will be the first in Ontario to voluntarily install sprinklers and garage heat detectors in the new homes it builds.

June 6, 2013
By Laura King

June 6, 2013, Toronto – A Toronto-area developer will be the first in Ontario to voluntarily install sprinklers and garage heat detectors in the new homes it builds.

Townwood Homes vice-president Marcello Messersi said at the site of a new subdivision in Vaughan, Ont., Thursday morning that the builder will include the hard-wired heat detectors and automatic sprinklers in its 136 townhomes and six duplexes to better protect residents and firefighters.

Fire-service leaders said the safety measures raise the bar for other builders. The housing industry has so far opposed the installation of residential sprinklers over fears that home buyers would balk at any extra costs.

Messersi said his prices will not change; the cost, he said, of installing sprinklers when building a subdivision are negligible and will not be passed on to residents.

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Vaughan’s acting fire chief, Larry Bentley, said he and his fire-prevention and public-education team will work to maintain the momentum generated by Thursday’s announcement.

“The message is clear,” Bentley said in an interview. “Residential fire sprinklers save lives, reduce injuries, protect firefighters and save property.”

Bentley said 15 per cent of the 275 house fires in the City of Vaughan since 2009 started in garages; the heat detectors, which will be wired into the homes’ smoke alarms, have the potential to prevent millions of dollars in property damage, he said.

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Vaughan firefighters ignite a prop of a typical bedroom in a sprinklered room to demonstrate the effectiveness of residential sprinklers to dignitaries and media. Photo by Laura King.

Sean Pierce, marketing manager for the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association (CASA), has worked closely with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), home builders and the insurance industry for years, advocating for residential sprinklers. He said Townwood is setting an example for other builders.

“The steps they took today are like Lee Iacocca and the first airbags ever put in cars,” Pierce said. “They’re leaders in the industry and are taking a risk, and I think they will propel the rest of the housing industry to build safer homes.”

Messersi said he chose to install sprinklers simply because of his awareness of the devices as a fire-safety measure. He was reluctant to further discuss the initiative because of the politics between sprinkler advocates and builders.

The Co-Operators insurance company’s George Hardy said Thursday that the company will offer clients whose homes include automatic sprinklers a 10 per cent discount on home insurance; if those sprinkler systems are monitored by an alarm company, the discount increases to 30 per cent.

OAFC president Matt Pegg said sprinklers significantly enhance safety for residents and first responders but noted that “they do not replace the need for effective public education, nor do they replace the need for effective and timely emergency response by firefighters.”


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