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« Op/ed: Mandate makes sense for home sprinklers | Main | NFPA applauds states’ actions on home fire sprinklers »

01/13/2010

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I'm a civil engineer and I design homes in California. My clients are going to scream at me when I tell them this new requirement. These systems are extremely expensive,and in California there are not many contractors with the specific license for this. What happens with supply and demand? Oh, yea, home prices go up.

Combined with the 2007 CBC how can young people afford a home in California? And the country wonders why California needs so much spent on social programs! Da, if as a youth, you can't afford,a home, you live with mom and dad. Do drugs and each other,then all sorts of social disorder develops. Then the state has to spend money on that.

No wonder California is $30 billion in debt.

Endless codes ==> higher costs! The youth have no hope of the "American Dream." So why not "Eat Drink & Be Merry!" Did state legislators think of this? How much crime will go up? How many murders as society degrades? Will more people be killed from fires or murder?

California has alot of land, but it can't be developed at the pace of demand. Oh, yea, EIR stuff and planning restrictions. Higher, higher prices==> more social disorders.

What are they thinking?

Da!

Daniel, P.E.
BS/MS - Civil/Environmental Engineering

Mr. Simon:
I'd like to provide information that may clarify some issues in your comments.

In California, at least 146 communities have already adopted a home fire sprinkler mandate. These communities have not experienced any of the problems that you describe.

A recent report available on this site reveals that the average cost per square sprinklered foot is $1.61. When incentives are added that cost comes down to $1.49. This is much more than people are already willing to pay for granite countertops and whirlpool baths.

Another study comparing housing supply and cost between communities with and without a requirement found that there is no negative impact from home fire sprinkler updates. On the contrary, for one community requiring fire sprinklers, the opposite is true.

The national consensus is in favor of home fire sprinklers. All national model codes now include this requirement. Fire sprinklers will save thousands of lives and millions of dollars in property.

$1.61 per square foot is the average cost per home ,My question is what are the rules in rual ,or off the grid, cold temp. homes .What are the solar,storage,pump,requirements. What are the estimated cost per square foot ? Thank you any info would be apprieciated.

Dave
Building inspector,plans examiner

Dave:
The Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report included all costs to the builder including design. The data included in the report also reflects the sprinkler system bid price plus all associated costs for the system which were not included in the bid, such as; permit fees, increase in water service line, and increase in tap fee, where they apply. For specific information please view the report here: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Research/FireSprinklerCostAssessment.pdf
The information you seek regards homes on private water supply (wells) is included in another blog on this site: http://nfpa.typepad.com/firesprinklerinitiative/2010/02/nfpa-13d-fire-sprinkler-systems-on-well-water.html
Click on the links or copy and paste the link to your browser to view the documents.
Have a safe day,
Maria Figueroa

Maybe we should have waited until the housing market readjusted before we implemented this.


Reply from blog author
Mr. Simmen:
Thanks for your comments. We heard the housing economics argument and NFPA set out to find out if there was any correlation between a home fire sprinkler mandate and housing supply and cost. Our study found that there is no impact on housing supply and cost when comparing neighboring communities with and without a mandate. Fire sprinklers save lives. We want to make sure that the future housing stock is protected for generations to come.

Has anyone heard from the home insurance companies about their rate reductions, in response to this mandate? I'll bet my bottom $$ there won't be one iota of rate reduction and in fact, Ill be surprised if the rates aren't raised!

Will this affect the City of Los Angeles? I was under the impression that CoLA had their own building code, but not sure if that means they take all of the CBC and then more resrictive measures as well or if their code is separate all together.

Shawn:
Over 146 cities/counties in California have already required fire sprinklers in one- and two-family homes and townhomes in their building code; including Los Angeles County which the City of Angeles.

The City of Los Angeles requires homes in certain areas and of a certain size to be fully fire sprinklered, but not all homes. Currently only the homes affected by the "Hillside Ordinance" (basically north of Sunset on the west side) are required to be fully sprinklered. So just wondering if this new code will affect the city of Los Angeles who utilizes their own building code (typically thought to be more stringent than the CBC). FOr LA County that would be unincorporated areas and areas outside the city limit for Los Angeles.

Shawn:
I cannot answer your specific question. Your best source for this information is the local authority having jurisdiction for the particular location.

I contacted 3 insurance carriers in doing the homework to attempt to get a Sprinkler Ordinace passed in our community. They ALL three offer a 10%-30% discount on the premium if the home is sprinklered and has smoke detectors.

How about, don't build your home in a fire zone? I think that would be step 1 to fire death prevention.

I want to get licensed so we can install a combination system that supplies water to the fire sprinklers and potable water from the same lines. Any advice?

Mr. Plumber/drummer:
Home fire deaths happen in urban and rural settings. Simply building homes outside of the fire zone (you must be from California) will do nothing to impact the fire death problem.

Mr. Jambey the plumber/drummer:
Each state regulates the licensing and licensing requirements for fire sprinkler installers. You must seek the advice of your state's fire marshal's office for the specific requirements.

I have never heard of a person dying from fire in a modern home, what are the number of people killed per year in modern home firesin the state of California?
I was an EMT in Fresno for 3 years, I only remember one house fire victim and that person was actually killed before the fire was intentionaly started.

Jim:
The age of the home issue has been brought up by opponents of residential fire sprinkler systems who boast that newer homes are safer homes and that the fire and death problem is limited to older homes. Age of housing is a poor predictor of fire death rates. When older housing is associated with higher rates, it usually is because older housing tends to have a disproportionate share of poorer, less educated households. Statistically, the only fire safety issue that is relevant to the age of the home is outdated electrical wiring. Beyond that, age of the home has little to nothing to do with fire safety. A fire is just as deadly in a newer home at 2:00 a.m. than it is in a 30 year old home.

In fact, newer homes are more likely to include a threat to firefighters in the form of lightweight construction. Lightweight construction has been variously estimated to be used in a half to two-thirds of all new wood one- and two-family homes. Sprinklers can offset the increased dangers posed by lightweight construction and create a safer fire environment for firefighters to operate.
Maria Figueroa

("10%-30% discount on the premium if the home is sprinklered and has smoke detectors"). Give me a brake, I bet they will add some kind of fee or increase the premiums or even make you get flood coverage because of a chance of a small fire or system malfunction and your whole house can get flooded. And what is a lightweight construction? I bet it is some new term that whoever thought of this sprinkler idea made.

Where did you get that cost from $1.61 per square foot is the average cost per home thats back in 1970's who ever wrote that, does not know about the cost of Fire Sprinklers!

The $1.61 per sq. ft. average cost comes from a study conducted in 2008. Click here to view the report and its findings: http://firesprinklerinitiative.org/~/media/Fire%20Sprinkler%20Initiative/Files/Reports/FireSprinklerCostAssessment.ashx

How about a new code that requires building houses of real materials (masonry) like the rest of the world and not some ridiculous stick, plywood covered boxes that burn like matches, are torn down by winds and eaten by termites?

I am a General Contractor in California, I have a BS in Fire Science and have studied applicable classes relating to fire protection and hydraulics, and fire protection systems. The figure $1.61 psf for installation is outragous. That price is similar to hearing those tv ads of having carpet installed at $.99 psf and installation is free. When the bill comes your way the price is more like 11$ psf after adding the appropriate fees and hidden charges.
Installing any fire protection system requires a professional willing to take full responsibility if the system fails to operate properly in the even of a fire. Engineering and a fire sprinkler designer must follow the appropriate guidelines per NFPA 13 and must be approved by the AHJ fire marshal. Plans, permits,and school taxes are all included in permitting fees. Next the proper sized water supply must be introduced, the 1-1.5" line already coming in your house is not adequate nor acceptable. You are looking at a cost of $15,000 for a 2,000 sq ft house.

I haven't read the requirements for the system and engineering, but are heads required in attic spaces as well. It is my understanding that many fires in wildfire situations are started in the attic from embers entering in to the eve and gable end vents. Thus the house burns from the top down and the sprinkler system goes off when the pipes melt or the heads go off after the roof is destroyed.

Will repairs or remodeling to existing homes trigger a requirement by the building department to bring it up to code and add sprinkler systems?

Here there is a repeal of this law in Northern Cal. underway. Hope for my sake it gets repealed. Getting ready to pull a permit on 2700 sq ft home in snow country. Deeply concerned about freezing temps destroying my home with water damage

Mr. Gatie:
NFPA 13D standard for home fire sprinkler design and installation includes information on how to properly insulate systems to protect them from freezing. Protecting a home fire sprinkler system from freezing is no different than what you will have to do to protect your domestic water supply. I sincerely hope that you will consider installing a fie sprinkler to protect your home's occupants and your investment in the event of a fire.
Maria Figueroa

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