Less than 6 weeks after a state mandated residential sprinkler requirement took effect, some Pennsylvania lawmakers along with builders and realtors are trying to get it repealed.
The mandate that all new housing in Pennsylvania, effective January 1, must have sprinklers was not included in legislation, but is part of the Uniform Construction Code which has an automatic adoption process built into it. Fred Cabell of the Pennsylvania Builders Association says any provision proposed by the International Code Council (ICC) is adopted in Pennsylvania automatically.
The Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute (PFESI) sent a letter to Pennsylvania General Assembly urging lawmakers not to repeal the sprinkler requirement because the sprinklers save lives and prevent serious injuries.
However, Cabell says the mandate does not address threat of fires in older, existing housing stock.
The PFESI letter to lawmakers says new homes need the sprinklers because they burn and collapse faster than older homes.
Cabell admits that new lightweight flooring systems do burn at a faster rate than conventional framing lumber..."As a result, the ICC has proposed, and this would not take effect until 2013 in Pennsylvania, that there be additional fire floor protection. We've encouraged representatives and senators to have in their legislation language that would provide that protection effective immediately."
The firefighters and builders also dispute the cost of installing sprinkler systems. The Institute says a recent study shows the cost at $1.61 per square foot and systems are being installed in Pennsylvania at a lower rate. But Cabell says even at that rate, the cost for 2,000 square feet of living space plus the basement would be $6,440. Cabell says a 2006 survey of Pennsylvanians showed that 89% said that smoke alarms do an adequate job of protecting them in their homes.
State Representative Garth Everett of Lycoming County and Senator Jake Corman of Center County have proposed legislation to repeal the sprinkler mandate.