Resi sprinklers challenged

Sunday, February 1, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS--In the four short months since sprinkler advocates helped pass a new code that requires residential sprinklers, these same advocates have fended off one major challenge to the new code, and they expect many more.

“We don’t expect the opposition to just go away,” said Jeff Shapiro, executive director of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

At the September 2008 International Code Council meeting here, Shapiro’s group was instrumental in getting approval for a residential sprinkler requirement for all new single and two-family homes and townhouses included in the upcoming 2009 edition of the International Code Council’s International Residential Code (Search “Sprinkler advocates victorious” at for details.)

ICC is a model code that regulates new home construction in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The code must be adopted at the state or local level.This fall, a group that opposed the sprinkler requirement, the National Association of Home Builders, filed an appeal to the code change, saying that firefighters, particularly volunteer firefighters, are not permitted to vote in the ICC hearings.

In late December, the ICC Board of Directors voted unanimously to reject that appeal, thus concluding the appeals process.

However, Shapiro fully expects further challenges from the NAHB at the local level where IRC is trying to get the code adopted and in the next code cycle.

The next code will not be published until 2012, but the next cycle of code proposals will come out in May.

“With the code [approval] process, we relive these events every 18 months, especially with issues that are controversial,” he said. Shapiro noted that it took the sprinkler advocates three attempts to get this requirement into the codes.

Shapiro’s group is actively working with a “summit group” of 28 national and international organizations interested in promoting the adoption of the ICC code at the state and local level. In addition, the IRC is building a network of state chapters to “enhance communications among state and local fire-safety advocates and national and international organizations, which will also facilitate the sharing and coordination of resources.”