ICC Upholds Mandatory Fire Sprinklers in Residential Code

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In November 2009, the International Code Council (ICC) voted to keep the language related to mandatory fire sprinklers installed in all new one- and two-family homes in the next edition of the International Residential Code (IRC)

January 01, 2010

 

Home fire sprinklers, such as the rapid response sprinkler system shown here, will be mandatory in new buildings beginning on Jan. 1, 2011, per the International Residential Code (IRC). Photo: Rapid Response

In November 2009, the International Code Council (ICC) voted to keep the language related to mandatory fire sprinklers installed in all new one- and two-family homes in the next edition of the International Residential Code (IRC). Fire sprinklers will be mandatory in new buildings beginning on Jan. 1, 2011.

The NAHB, which was against a mandatory fire-sprinkler code, defends its position. Steve Orlowski, program manager for codes and standards, says there's been a misconception that the NAHB is anti-fire sprinkler. “The NAHB has always been a supporter of the ICC and the IRC,” says Orlowski. “If you look at all the literature we've put out and shared with our members, you'll see that we're not against sprinklers.”

Orlowski stresses that the NAHB looks at many factors that affect the housing market. “The cost of construction is high. We look at everything from a cost/benefit side. What is the market looking for and how can we meet it?” asks Orlowski, adding, “There doesn't seem to be a big push from consumers for fire sprinklers, especially when we look at the performance of smoke alarms in the home.”

Darren Palmieri, national product manager, Residential Fire Protection for Tyco Fire Suppression and Building Products in McLean, Va., says, “We are pleased that the IRC Building Code Committee upheld the decision made by the ICC Governmental Members at last year's hearing to include residential fire sprinklers in the IRC.”

Palmieri points to 15-year studies conducted in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Prince George's County, Md., on the effectiveness of their respective sprinkler requirements. Both found that zero fire deaths occurred in home fires when a sprinkler system was present, as compared to over 100 deaths from fires in homes without sprinklers. “We anticipate the IRC sprinkler requirements will result in safer homes being built in the future, reflecting the success that Scottsdale and Prince George's County have experienced,” he says.

Builders that choose to install sprinklers before requirements go into effect can offer a true point of differentiation to prospective home buyers, Palmieri says. “They can market the fact that homes with sprinklers are the safest possible homes for families, and in fact, we are already seeing some builders use this successfully,” he says. “Builders can also negotiate trade-ups to realize the most efficient use of land and decrease development costs.” He says many communities will allow street-width reductions, longer dead-end streets, increased hydrant spacing, additional units and other advantages for developers and builders.

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