New Study Finds Residential Sprinkler Ordinance Does Not Hurt Real Estate Market

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A new study on residential fire sprinkler ordinances, conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), reveals that mandatory fire sprinkler installation in new homes does not negatively affect the number of homes being built. Home builders nationwide have argued that the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC), which requires new homes to be equipped with fire sprinklers beginning in 2011, would negatively affect the housing market because of the cost increase to home buyers. However, statistics show that nationally, residential fire sprinklers will only cost approximately $1.61 per square foot, or 1% of the value of the home to install. This cost adds approximately $3,500-$5,000 to the price of the home.

This report is another point to make the case for enacting life-saving sprinkler requirements in local communities.

A new study on residential fire sprinkler ordinances, conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), reveals that mandatory fire sprinkler installation in new homes does not negatively affect the number of homes being built.

Home builders nationwide have argued that the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC), which requires new homes to be equipped with fire sprinklers beginning in 2011, would negatively affect the housing market because of the cost increase to home buyers. However, statistics show that nationally, residential fire sprinklers will only cost approximately $1.61 per square foot, or 1% of the value of the home to install. This cost adds approximately $3,500-$5,000 to the price of the home.

"Over a 30-year mortgage, that's less than the price of a cup of coffee per week! That's a small price to pay to save the lives of your loved ones in the event of a fire," said John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.

The inclusion of residential fire sprinklers for one- and-two-family dwellings in the 2009 IRC, a response to the growing fire problem in the U.S., could prevent more than 3,000 fire-related deaths and 60,000 serious fire-related injuries across the nation each year, if adopted nationwide without amendment. About 85 percent of all fires occur in the home, fueled by new lightweight construction and more flammable home contents. In fact, the new sprinkler regulations are being endorsed by fire service professionals across the country, such as the U.S. Fire Administration, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and the International Association of Firefighters. Groups such as these agree smoke detectors are no longer enough in residential fire protection, as lightweight construction has become more prevalent, house contents are more flammable than ever, and the time to escape a house fire has been reduced from 17 minutes 20 years ago to 3 minutes today, according to a cost-benefit analysis by FEMA.

The NFPA study, Comparative Analysis of Housing Cost and Supply Impacts of Sprinkler Ordinances at the Community Level, was conducted by Newport Partners and compared residential construction in four counties: Montgomery County, Maryland, was paired with Fairfax County, Virginia; and Prince George's County was paired with Anne Arundel County, both located in Maryland. Montgomery County and Prince George's County have sprinkler requirements; Fairfax County and Anne Arundel County do not. The selected areas, all developmentally mature, cover a wide geographic area and contain a variety of housing stock and income levels, making them prime for comparing municipalities with and without sprinkler ordinances in place.

"This study clearly demonstrates that home fire sprinkler requirements do not impede housing development starts," says Jim Shannon, NFPA president. "This report is another point to make the case for enacting life-saving sprinkler requirements in local communities."

About the National Fire Sprinkler Association
Established in 1905, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) is the voice of the fire sprinkler industry. NFSA leads the drive to get life-saving fire sprinklers into all buildings; provides support and resources for its members - fire sprinkler contractors, manufacturers and suppliers; and educates authorities having jurisdiction of fire control matters. Headquartered in Patterson, N.Y., NFSA has regional operations offices throughout the country. http://www.nfsa.org.

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Darcie Borden
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