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2009

The cost of residential fire sprinkler systems has been a major point raised by builders in the residential fire sprinkler battle. They often cite unknown studies pointing to how many people will not be able to afford a home if the residential (one and two-family) code requirement is adopted.


I recently sat next to an actuary during one of my many flights and engaged in conversation as I often do with my seat mates. Of course, the conversation turned to residential fire sprinklers when he asked what I do for a living. So began the opportunity to take advantage of a "teachable moment" as I explained the whole residential sprinkler issue to this person who, as many persons, had not even thought of this technology when making a home purchase decision.


The very first question he asked after he learned all about this life safety technology was, you guessed it; how much does it cost? I explained about the 1 to 1.5% of a home's cost and the research putting this cost at $1.61 a sq. sprinklered foot. Immediately his mathematical mind went to work and within seconds he said; "That would only translate into approximately $5.00 extra mortgage payment a month" After I got over my awe of his mathematical abilities without the use of a calculator I remembered reading somewhere someone say that the additional mortage amount would equal the cost of a "Big Mac" a month.


During one of the recent hearings, someone provided testimony begging the question posed by the title of this blog. I bring it to you here in its entirety and urge you to make similar analogies, if given the chance, when addressing the cost of residential sprinkler systems. The testimony follows:


 

<span style="FONT-SIZE: 12px; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">&quot;To really look at the issue of the cost impact on homes and whether sprinklers will impact the cost of affordable housing, there is a basic question that has to be asked, “What drives the price of a new home?”<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span>In many, if not most, markets, the answer to this question is not construction costs, but instead, what the market will bear, with sales prices rising and falling based on what buyers are willing to pay.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span>In such markets, costs associated with mandatory sprinklers are absorbed into the price by adjusting other costs or features or builder markup. <o:p></o:p></span>


 

<span style="FONT-SIZE: 12px; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Even if there is an increase in the cost of a home based on sprinklers, the impact on a monthly mortgage payment is negligible in an average home.<o:p></o:p></span>


 

<span style="FONT-SIZE: 12px; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Consider a hypothetical $3,000 sprinkler system in a $300,000 home with a 6.5% mortgage, a 5% credit on a $2,000/year insurance bill, and a combined Federal/State income tax rate of 33%; the net cost of fire sprinklers, after mortgage related tax deductions, would be $4.37 per month.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span>This represents a 0.23% increase in the monthly payment and roughly equates to the cost of a premium beverage at your local coffee shop<o:p></o:p></span></span></p>

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<span style="FONT-SIZE: 12px; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">So, I pose the question to everyone listening to this program today, just how cheap do sprinklers have to become before they’re considered cost-effective?&quot;<o:p></o:p></span></span></p>

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<p class="MsoNormal" style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><span lang="EN-US"><o:p>[Maria Figueroa | mailto:mfigueroa@nfpa.org]</o:p></span></p>

A great number of residential occupances are now being built using lightweight construction materials. Although these materials reduce construction costs and have consistently demonstrated equivalent or even superior quality under non-fire conditions, the same cannot be said when these materials are exposed to fire loading during a residential structure fire. The result is progressive structural collapse due to the failure of these lightweight structures, resulting in firefighter injuries and death.

Firefighter safety is of great importance when debating the need for residential fire sprinklers. A number of fire service organizations including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the US Fire Administration and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) have weighed in on the subject. IAFF President Harold Schaitberger was quoted as saying: “Residential fire sprinklers protect fire fighters and the communities that they serve.”

Until recently, these declarations were supported by field experience and empirical research. However, two important studies conducted since have provided much needed ammunition to the firefighter safety aspect of the residential fire sprinkler debate as it relates to lightweight construction.

The first one, published by the Institute for Research in Construction, Canada, and the most recent one published by Tyco, USA, have underscored the impact that lightweight construction poses to life safety of occupants and firefighters. These two very important studies should be included in the arsenal of weapons in the fight for residential fire sprinklers. The findings in these reports are a must read for residential fire sprinkler advocates.

Maria Figueroa

[ | http://www.cfsi.org/]

Common Voices<span style="FONT-FAMILY: Times New Roman"> the Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Service Safety Leadership Award. Named after retired-Senator Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, a strong advocate of firefighters and rescue personnel during his 36-year career in Congress, the award recognizes organizations for their outstanding contributions to firefighter health and safety.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span><o:p></o:p></span></span></p>

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<p class="MsoNormal" style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><span style="FONT-SIZE: 11pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 12.0pt"><span style="FONT-FAMILY: Times New Roman">A survivor advocacy group, Common Voices consists of six women who have been sharing their stories of personal loss to advocate for fire sprinklers.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span>These six advocates have many things in common, but the one that brings them together is the passion to prevent the loss of life to fire. Their lives were all changed when they lost a loved one to fire. Since the group was formed in 2007, they have visited Capitol Hill on many occasions to meet with members of Congress to advocate for the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span>They were also actively involved in the adoption of the ICC’s Residential Code in 2008, providing compelling testimony at the ICC hearings.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&#0160; </span>Most importantly, they travel across the country speaking to citizens and the fire service and local decision makers concerning the devastating effects of uncontrolled fire and how they can help others limit the chances to live out their stories.<o:p></o:p></span></span></p>

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<p class="MsoNormal" style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><span style="FONT-SIZE: 11pt; mso-bidi-font-size: 12.0pt"><span style="FONT-FAMILY: Times New Roman">Common Voices advocates are Amy Acton of Michigan, burn survivor and executive director of </span>The Phoenix SocietyAll of these advocates have put together moving video&#39;s that&#0160;include powerful messages on the&#0160;need for&#0160;home fire sprinklers. Here are just a couple. All of them can be viewed at their website .


 







[Lorraine Carli | mailto:lcarli@nfpa.org]

 

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