November 10th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com
By Andy Johns – Chattanooga Times Free Press
In the middle of a housing slump, the last thing Tina Rice wants to do is tack on a few thousand dollars to the price of home construction.
Which is why she’s against a move requiring fire sprinkler systems to be installed in all new homes, a move that some builders say could add between about $4,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of a house.
“To me it’s like you’re almost getting rid of your first-time home buyer,” said Ms. Rice, the Bradley County building inspector. “The way I look at it, you’re pricing people out of buying a home.”
Ms. Rice spoke out against the fire-sprinkler portion of the 2009 International Residential Code in September while attending the International Code Council’s Final Action Hearings in Minnesota. But the council went ahead and voted in favor of sprinklers, so all one- and two-family residences and townhomes built after Jan. 1, 2011 in areas where the code is adopted must have sprinkler systems, according to an code council spokesman.
Under Tennessee law, however, it could be years before any new homes in the state must have fire sprinkler systems, according to Ms. Rice.
And once the code is adopted, local governments have the option to amend it to exclude certain portions or simply fail to enforce all the rules, according to Michael Colopy, spokesman for International Code Council.
“In other words, this is a model code,” he said. “By itself it doesn’t have the force of law.”
State law requires counties with building inspectors to operate under a code that’s no more than six years older than the code adopted by the state. Since Tennessee only recently adopted the 2006 code, it could be years before the state adopts the newest code.
Hamilton County would probably follow the cue of the state, according to Pat Payne, director of building inspection for the county. Hamilton, which now uses the 2003 code, would do what it needed to remain in compliance with the state, he said.
Proponents of the sprinkler systems say they save lives, which is worth the small cost of installation.
“It’s two Big Macs a month on a 30-year mortgage,” said Wayne Waggoner, executive director of the Tennessee Fire Sprinkler Contractors Association.
The U.S. Fire Administration estimates home sprinkler systems would cost around $1 to $1.50 per square foot in new construction, which Mr. Waggoner said was true on his own house. The sprinkler system in his 3,800-square-foot house cost $3,900, he said.
At that cost, the system is well worth the expense, Mr. Waggoner said, citing the dangers fire pose to property, residents and fire officials.
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