Home sprinkler installation costs drop nationwide

And prices are lowest in states that have sprinkler requirements, indicating home fire sprinklers get more cost effective the more prevalent they are
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

QUINCY, Mass.—The cost of installing home fire sprinklers has decreased nationwide, and states that mandate home fire sprinklers have even lower installation costs, a new study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation has found.

“In the two states with statewide regulations, Maryland and California, significantly lower costs were found there than in the sample as a whole,” Kathleen Almand, executive director of the foundation, told Security Systems News. The foundation is an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association, based here.

The cost for sprinkler systems in those two states—$1.16 per square foot—was lower because of economies of scale resulting from more people getting sprinkler systems, the study suggests.

Nationwide, the average cost of sprinkler installation dropped from $1.61 per square foot five years ago to $1.35 now, the study shows.

Those are some of the key findings of the recently released “Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment - 2013” study. It follows up on a similar study the foundation did in 2008.

Almand said the study results are good news for fire safety advocates and companies that sell and install sprinklers.

“The fact that there are these efficiencies that come when ordinances are in place is a good thing for all of us,” she said. “It’s a good thing for fire safety, it’s a good thing for [sprinkler companies] in terms of business because obviously, more cost effective sprinkler systems make it easier for a community to adopt an ordinance, [and] that helps a business.”

The NFPA asked the foundation to do the study. Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy for the NFPA, said that through its Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the NFPA offers the findings of such studies as “tools and resources to fire sprinkler advocates all across the country so they can use this information on a local community level or on a statewide level.”

One common argument against home fire sprinklers—one made by many homebuilders—is that sprinklers are too costly.

Carli told SSN that this study refutes that. “The reality is, as you can see from the report, is that they’re a very cost effective way to save lives and property and getting more cost effective over time as home fire sprinklers become more prevalent.”

Almand said 2013 was a good time to do the study because in the five years since the last one, more sprinkler ordinances and regulations have been put in place, both locally and also statewide in California and Maryland. “We knew this study would give us some more information on what the impact of having an ordinance or a regulation in place would have on cost,” she said.

The study found that nationwide, the average, median, minimum and maximum costs of sprinkler installation all went down, she said.

The 2013 study was more comprehensive than the earlier one, examining 51 homes in 17 communities throughout the nation. The 2008 study examined 30 homes in 10 communities.

Almand said another key finding of the 2013 study was that plastic CPVC pipe “continues to be the material of choice.”

She noted that with the study, as happens with all foundation projects, an independent advisory panel did a “very thorough, critical, independent review of the data.”

The panel included representatives from the National Association of Home Builders; the U.S. Fire Administration; the International Code Council; the National Institutes of Standards and Technology; and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, in Oakland, Calif.; and also the California State Fire Marshal, she said.