Following the mandate, the PA Builders Association filed a lawsuit against the state in effort to block Pennsylvania’s adoption of the automatic fire sprinkler portion of the new codes. The PBA’s primary concern with the new law was with the cost that a fire sprinkler system would add to a home. Average costs for implementing an automatic fire sprinkler system range from $3,000 to $16,000, or $1.75 per square foot, depending on the size of the home. The PBA argued that the cost of automatic fire sprinkler systems would be detrimental to people buying new homes and would have a negative impact on the building industry.
On April 25, 2011, PA Governor Tom Corbett signed into law House Bill 377, repealing the mandate to require automatic fire sprinkler systems in most new homes. The bill excludes all new one and two-family residences from the sprinkler requirements. The bill requires that PA home builders offer buyers the option to install an automatic fire sprinkler system and that they provide buyers with information explaining the initial and ongoing costs as well as the benefits of installing an automatic fire sprinkler system.
While the state no longer requires the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in most new homes, home buyers and home builders should check the codes and requirements of the city or municipality that a new home is being built in. Local codes can still require the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems and some local governments even offer incentives. You can find information online about local and state regulations throughout the U.S. by visiting the National Fire Sprinkler Association’s website: http://www.nfsa.org.
Why to Consider an Automatic Fire Sprinkler System?
The law in Pennsylvania doesn’t require most home buyers and builders to install fire sprinkler systems but that doesn’t mean buyers and builders shouldn’t highly consider them.
A lot of home builders use lightweight, flammable materials when building new homes in effort to cut costs and maximize profits. This practice not only reduces the quality of the home, it reduces a fire departments chance of responding to a call in time. Lightweight building products can burn in as little as 3 minutes, not leaving emergency response crews and fire fighters enough time to arrive on the scene. This puts homeowners in danger; especially children, elderly and disabled individuals. Fire sprinkler systems are life safety devices that respond automatically and prevent fires from spreading.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 369,500 home fires in the U.S. in 2010. The fires throughout the country in 2010 caused 13,350 injuries, 2,640 deaths and over $6.9 billion in damages. As you can see, home fires are a major concern for any homeowner.
Various fire agencies such as the Fire Administration, agree that fire sprinkler systems will decrease the amount of fire related deaths and injuries and will lower damage costs significantly. The Fire Research Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology studied the impact of fire sprinkler systems in homes. According to the FRL, automatic fire sprinkler systems reduce the risk of fire related death by 69 percent and the combined use of fire sprinkler systems and smoke detectors reduce the risk by 82 percent.
There are many benefits to installing automatic fire sprinkler systems, such as:
• Low Cost (U.S. average of $1.75 per square foot)
• Lower Insurance Rates (5% to 15% discounts are offered by most insurance companies)
• Fast Response
• Reliable (Underwriters Laboratory claims a 95% fail-safe rate)
• Aesthetically Pleasing (a wide range of colors are available for sprinkler heads, low profile models are available and sprinkler heads can be installed flush with the ceiling if preferred)
• Protects Your Investment (water damage is less costly than smoke and fire damage)
• Simple Installation (fire sprinkler systems are easy to install while constructing a new home and materials are relatively inexpensive)
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Fire Sprinkler Systems
There are many myths and misconceptions about fire sprinkler systems that often deter home buyers from considering sprinkler systems, here are the most common myths:
• Automatic fire sprinkler systems use high volumes of water (FALSE: sprinkler systems are extremely efficient and use a small amount of water)
• Pipes freeze (FALSE: fire sprinkler piping is housed in the interior of your home and experiences the same temperatures as the rest of you homes plumbing)
• Entire system activates during a fire, causing unnecessary water damage (FALSE: fire sprinkler systems are setup in ‘zones’ and only activate in areas that extreme heat is sensed)
• Extra insurance covereage is needed (FALSE: insurance discounts are typically offered to homeowners with fire sprinkler systems and water damage from fire sprinkler systems is usually covered under the same policy provisions that protect you from water damage caused by plumbing failures and leaks)
As an experienced PA home builder and as home owners, we recommend the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems to home buyers. For a relatively small investment, you can offer your home, personal belongings and family members a level of protection that can’t be achieved with smoke detectors alone.
This article is Copyright © 2011 Chase Building Group, LLC.