Home-sprinkler requirements don’t dampen housing starts

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Friday, June 14, 2013

QUINCY, Mass.—Homebuilders often oppose state or local laws requiring home fire sprinklers, contending the added expense will negatively impact housing construction. But now positive new housing statistics from California—where home sprinklers are mandated—refute that claim, according to a spokeswoman for the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

“Sprinklers save lives. That’s the bottom line and that’s been proven, and they don’t impact the housing market at all in terms of housing starts or price,” Maria Figueroa, Fire Sprinkler Initiative communications project manager, told Security Systems News. The Fire Sprinkler Initiative of the NFPA, which is based here, advocates the use of home fire sprinklers.

In the Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog she writes, Figueroa recently cited a report from The Modesto Bee newspaper that home building permits were up nearly 55 percent in the Sacramento area of California in 2013, compared to the same period last year.

California adopted fire sprinkler requirements in all new one- and two-family homes as of Jan. 1, 2011.

“The article explains that the Sacramento results mirror a statewide increase in building permits for single-family homes, proving that fire sprinkler requirements do not thwart home building,” Figueroa wrote in the blog.

Statistics on the website of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) show single-family home building permits increased on average by 28 percent in the United States between April 2012 and April 2013, but California experienced a 55 percent increase in permits in the same period.

Figueroa pointed out that South Carolina—which she said is “included among the states rejecting statewide adoption of one- and two-family home fire sprinkler requirements”—was below the national average. South Carolina saw a 27 percent increase in single-family home building permits from April 2012 to April 2013, according to the NAHB.

California is one of only two states—Maryland is the other—that has a sprinkler requirement statewide, Figueroa told SSN.

“So it’s very unfortunate as housing starts to recover countrywide that only California and Maryland will ensure that future generations will be safe,” she said.

Figueroa also cited a 2009 NFPA study that compared counties in Maryland that had residential sprinkler requirements with counties in Virginia that didn’t.

According to that study, it found no evidence that the approval of sprinkler ordinances “caused any detrimental effects on housing supply and costs.” In fact, the study said, “the data reviewed indicate that sprinkler system requirements were a minor influence on regional housing costs” compared to such other factors as fees, population, job growth and land availability.

According to the NAHB statistics, Maryland saw a 42 percent increase in single-family home building permits from April 2012 to April 2013. Virginia saw a 25 percent increase during the same period.