Costly sprinkler regulations would limit consumer choices

Costly sprinkler regulations would limit consumer choices
June 6, 2012
I was disappointed to see the advertisement in the May 22 Post and Courier advocating fire sprinklers in new homes. You may be aware of the National Fire Protection Association’s nationwide push to influence government to require fire sprinkler systems in single-family new homes via the building code.

This is presently an issue in our state as the Construction Codes Council considers the 2012 International Residential Code. As a rejoinder to the “facts “ presented in the advertisement, I submit:

» The proposed mandate is for single-family homes. Sprinklers are already required in apartments, hotels, and most condominiums.

» Sprinkler systems only modestly improve the chances of saving a life in the event of a fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the survivability rate for fires in homes with working smoke detectors is 98.6 percent . This rate rises to 99.4 percent where both sprinklers and smoke detectors are present.

» More than 34 states have amended or passed legislation prohibiting mandatory sprinkler mandates in new one- and two-family dwellings. Only California and Maryland have adopted such mandates.

» The cost of a sprinkler system included in a new home is estimated to be $26 per square foot, depending on the size of the home and the project’s specific details. If the proposed new home is not in an area with sufficient public water pressure available, the systems necessary to boost the pressure could cost an additional $5,000 to $10,000.

» An effective, reliable smoke detector costs something like $20.

» Dr. Joey Von Nessen, research economist with the Moore School of Business at USC, estimates that 17,000 families in South Carolina will be priced out of buying a new home if the sprinkler mandate is implemented.

New homes are built with fire stopping techniques and less flammable materials than older homes and do not, in fact, burn faster and hotter as the ad claims. New homes are also required to include several smoke detectors.

There are many other relevant discussion points but the biggest is one word: Freedom.

A person building a new, detached home should decide for himself or herself whether the cost of a sprinkler system is worth the perceived benefit. This is not an issue of homebuilders’ protecting their profits, as has been alleged.

If the mandate were to pass, all homes would have the same requirement, all would experience the same cost increase, and none would suffer any more than the other. The cost would universally be passed on to anyone building a home, even the citizen building a home for himself or herself. Costs where adequate pressure does not presently exist would be exponentially more.

The advocates of fire sprinkler products should focus on showing the consuming public how great their product is and why we should want to purchase it.

Instead they work tirelessly to convince the government to require us to purchase it, whether we want it or not. It is time to focus on freedom and consumer choice — not on the promise of safety through expensive regulation.

Don McDonough
Division President

Ryland Homes
Charleston/Myrtle Beach

Seven Farms Road
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