Iowa homebuilders are urging city councils to reject one of the latest safety recommendations for new home construction. The 2009 edition of the International Residential Code suggests all homes built after January of 2011 be equipped with fire sprinklers.
Creighton Cox, government affairs director for the Homebuilders Association of Greater Des Moines, says homebuilders believe smoke alarms save lives. "There’s dual fire smoke alarm detectors that are being mandated that we encourage. It’s a reasonable cost," Cox says.
"Smoke alarms will get people out of the house first notice." Cox says sprinklers, by comparison, aren’t necessarily an early warning system. "The fire sprinkler systems are really for the building construction, not for life safety," he says.
According to Cox, a sprinkler system will tack on another $5,000 to the price of building a new home and that may price some home-buyers out of the market for a new house. "We understand that an argument between a life safety of any measure and an economics life safety wins, but when you’re forcing people into an older stock, you’re forcing people into homes that are just going to be less safe for that family," Cox says.
Officials with the National Fire Protection Association say sprinklers can save the lives of young children and the elderly, as well as injured or ill people who struggle to escape from a burning building.
The State of Minnesota has rejected the idea of requiring sprinklers in new home construction, however, and home builders in other states — including Iowa — are lobbying state legislatures and city councils to reject that requirement in building codes.