Sprinkler advocates victorious in Minneapolis

International Code Council agrees it’s time for residential sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes
Saturday, November 1, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS--After years of trying, sprinkler advocates scored a major victory in September when the International Code Council voted overwhelmingly to include a residential sprinkler requirement in the International Residential Code.

The Sept. 22 vote was 1,282 to 470, according to Jeff Hugo, manager of codes for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. “We’re very happy,” Hugo said.

This mandate will apply to all new one- and two-family homes and will be part of the 2009 IRC, which is published at the end of the year and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2011.

“There’s no turning back on this,” said Steve Muncy, president of the American Fire Sprinkler Association. He called the vote “very significant,” but pointed out that its impact will not be felt immediately, since, like all codes, it will be phased in over a number of years.

The IRC is used in 46 states, but must be adopted either at the state level or locally, and the code can be altered and amended when it is adopted, Muncy noted. The International Association of Homebuilders has actively opposed the requirement, and sprinkler advocates expect homebuilders to continue their opposition by trying to water down the requirement at the local level.

However, Muncy said, “there is a concern on the part of cities-they don’t like to take stuff out of the codes [because they’re worried about liability], so the homebuilders may have a harder time getting it stricken at the local level.”

For now, advocacy organizations such as the NFSA and the AFSA are concentrating on promoting the “fire sprinkler concept” and providing education opportunities to sprinkler contractors who may not be doing residential work.