Fire Safety Experts Call for Sprinklers in New Homes

New homes have been found to burn much faster than older homes due to a change in building materials the last decade. The increased use of prefabricated, lightweight construction materials in new-homes today has caused homes to burn and collapse faster than homes that use traditional solid-wood frame construction, firefighters and fire safety groups say.

Yet, California and Maryland remain the only two states that require sprinklers to be installed in new homes. On the other hand, several state governments have enacted legislation in recent months forbidding cities from requiring sprinklers to be added to new homes.

Several state governments have become outspoken critics against sprinkler systems added to new homes despite the move by the International Code Council, which develops national building codes, in 2009 voting in favor of fire sprinklers being added to all new one- and two-family homes.

When the housing market started to soften, however, many lawmakers, lobbyists, and the building industry started to speak out against the installation of sprinklers in new homes.

“When you start mandating a fire sprinkler system, you are going to price a lot of people out of these new homes,” Ned Munoz, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Texas Association of Home Builders, told Reuters.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation found in 2008 that adding a sprinkler system to a new home would add about $3,864 onto a 2,400-square-foot home. However, Reuters reports that some insurance companies offer up to 10 percent discounts to policies when homes have fire sprinklers.

With the increase in lightweight construction materials, fire experts say the sprinklers could save lives. But others argue that the decision to install fire sprinklers should be left with home owners, not a mandate among city or state governments.

“There’s nothing to stop somebody from having a fire sprinkler system installed in their house,” Jack Glenn, technical director for the Florida Home Builders Association, told Reuters. “But to mandate it for the entire population is a very expensive proposition.”

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