Earlier this year, NFPA released a video case study about a new, fully sprinklered development in Greenville, South Carolina. Now, we're providing extensive backstory on how the developer came to the decision to sprinkler all 140 homes.
The latest edition of NFPA Journal includes an adaptation of a presentation Russ Davis made in May at NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative Summit, where he discussed a change of heart about sprinklers. "We learned that sprinklers were not required for this kind of single-family-home development, which was a revelation to me," said Davis, co-founder of Homes Urban, a residential development firm that oversaw the construction of the Homestead at Hartness development in Greenville. "So we did what any developer would do—we took the fire sprinklers out of the site plan. We’d save hundreds of thousands of dollars on a part of the plan we didn’t need anyway. Plus, these were single-family homes with two doors to the outside, so people could get out if there was a fire. The homes would have smoke alarms. They were safe enough. That was our developer mindset."
The new site plans, which initially had sprinklers, concerned the fire marshal. He told Davis that if sprinklers were reintroduced, the number of fire hydrants throughout the development could be reduced. Less hydrants mean significant cost savings. (Learn about the array of "trade-ups" builders can enjoy if they install sprinklers.)
"I think fire protection cost less than the granite countertops we installed," said Davis. "It takes about $9.80 of rent per unit each month to pay for the sprinkler systems. What renter would say no to sprinklers and assume the risk of a fire where somebody could get hurt? That was one of our big lessons learned: No one can make the argument that the cost of sprinklers is prohibitive or somehow outweighs the benefits they provide."
Big-business builders, added Davis, need to understand that they can financially benefit from sprinkler installation. Taking on the role of educating this group and the public about this life-saving technology in South Carolina is the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition.
Read the full adaptation of Davis' presentation in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal, and watch the following video featuring Davis: