In a previous post, I wrote about the battle raging in Illinois concerning retrofit of highrise residential buildings with fire sprinklers and the state fire marshal’s effort to update the code to also include fire sprinkler requirements in all new one- and two-family home construction, where Jim Shannon, president of NFPA, documented his support for the fire marshal’s efforts.
The battle is ongoing and now the non-profit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) is countering misinformation about home fire sprinklers, cited by opponents. Tom Lia, executive director of NIFSAB says the organization “is working to get the facts straight about home fire sprinklers in relation to the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s filing of rule changes” that would update the state fire code with the current edition of NFPA 101: Life Safety Code®
According to Lia, "misinformation about home fire sprinkler costs and the supposed fire safety of today’s new homes is currently circulating among home builders and their associations, REALTORS® associations, and elected officials." Lia says that the above groups "are making false claims in press releases, letters to their members and constituents, and on their websites."
Citing the fact that there are 91 Illinois communities that currently have fire sprinkler requirements Lia said; “They are making false claims about the costs of installing home fire sprinklers, claiming they cost tens of thousands of dollars more per home than actual completion costs and will price homebuyers out of owning new homes…we have received actual costs from contractors who have recently completed projects in Illinois and the cost averages $2.38 per sprinklered square foot.”
A recent report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) counters the organization’s stance that fire sprinklers - which according to Lia add approximately 2% to building costs - will price homebuyers out of new homes. Said report states that homebuyers can now afford to pay 23% more for a new home than a property built before 1960 and still maintain the same amount of first-year annual costs.
The board also counters the arguments that today’s modern homes are safer due to smoke alarms and better construction practices. The latest statistics from NFPA find that 84 percent of residential fire deaths occur in one- and two-family homes. A UL study showed that the lightweight engineered wood systems in today’s homes actually burn faster and fail sooner than the dimensional lumber systems in older homes. Today’s homes are filled with synthetic and/or petroleum-based furnishings that burn hotter and faster.
Lia also refers to another UL study comparing modern furnishings to legacy furnishings and the tenability of homes. The video that follows documents the results; the modern room transitioned to flashover - the temperature at which everything suddenly ignites in flames - in three and-a-half minutes and the legacy room in 29-and-a-half minutes.
“We support the state fire marshal and members of the Illinois fire service, especially the firefighters who risk their lives every time there is a fire call,” states Lia. “It’s time for people to hear the facts and quit being plagued with misinformation. We need to do what’s right so that no more fire deaths occur in Illinois.”