Home fire sprinkler requirement all wet
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Glenwood Springs City Council members are split 3-3 over whether to opt out of a provision in the new International Residential Code requiring all new homes to be built with fire sprinkler systems.
The matter has been set aside until all seven council members are present at a meeting, and the city will have to take official action to opt out.
There’s a good case to be made for residential fire sprinkler systems, but we side with Mayor Steckler and Councilmen Gamba and Leahy in calling for the city to opt out of making the sprinklers an absolute requirement.
Home buyers should be the ones to decide whether the added cost and the risk of frozen pipes or a system malfunction are worth the safety and insurance rate benefits.
In general, building codes set out detailed standards that ensure safety and quality of life in our homes, schools and commercial buildings. But the 2009 residential code, which Glenwood Springs and other jurisdictions in our area have adopted, takes a controversial step in requiring fire sprinklers in all new-home construction.
Towns, cities and counties across the country are weighing whether to accept or opt out of this new residential building code provision.
Installing fire sprinklers in new homes is estimated to cost $2 to as high as $8 per square foot. That’s an added cost of at least $4,000 for a conventional 2,000-square-foot house at the low end, or $16,000 at the high end. The low-end cost isn’t a deal-breaker, but we all know that building in the mountains costs more than low-end national averages, so that $2 estimate is likely too optimistic.
At a time when smoke alarms are inexpensive enough to be placed in every room, and when new housing starts are challenging at best, we feel it’s premature to require fire sprinklers in all new homes.
It would be worthwhile to revisit the issue in a couple of years to see what the actual installation costs add up to in our region, and to check out the track record for system malfunctions.
But for now, Glenwood Springs and others should opt out of the requirement and let home builders and home buyers make the choice.
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