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As we had reported on this blog, Builder Magazine produced a story, titled “Playing with Fire,” directing the homebuilding industry to “pay more attention” to home fire sprinklers. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is firing back at the article, stating that it distorts the facts on the abilities and necessity of fire sprinklers.
NFPA has taken a close look at NAHB’s initial response to the story. (They’re demanding a correction and are drafting a rebuttal for the magazine’s editors.) While NAHB claims the magazine’s story skews the facts, consider these “facts” they stated in their response to the story:
NAHB: Fires are more likely in older homes
As NFPA’s fire sprinkler expert explained during a recent educational event on home fire sprinklers, “most of the causes of fire are in new homes and old homes alike.” Whether in a home built yesterday or 30 years ago, fire causation in homes has not changed. What has changed is how today’s homes are being built. Older, traditional building materials have more inherent fire endurance than the lightweight construction materials widely used today. Research confirms lightweight construction materials can drastically exacerbate a home fire, significantly reducing a resident’s escape time.
NAHB: Newer homes are built to safer standards
This statement is partially accurate. NAHB states that “newer homes are built to building codes explicitly designed to make homes safer” but fails to mention that a component of all U.S. model building codes is the requirement—not the option—to sprinkler all new homes. Since fire sprinklers are essential, new homes built without them should be considered substandard.
*NAHB: Smoke alarms, not sprinklers, are needed *
NFPA is in agreement that working smoke alarms should be a necessity in all homes. However, what is needed to reverse the trend of 2,500 people dying annually in U.S. home fires is sprinklers. Smoke alarms will alert you to a fire, but keep in mind today’s fires become deadly in as little as two minutes. Fire sprinklers give you the necessary time to escape safely.
NAHB: Sprinklers aren’t cost-effective
NAHB balks at installation cost, citing NFPA’s own sprinkler cost report to defend their argument. However, NAHB does not highlight key points of this research underscoring the cost-effectiveness of sprinklers. The national average for installation is $1.35 per sprinklered square foot, or a mere one percent of a home’s total construction cost. States requiring sprinklers in new homes—Maryland and California—saw a decline in installation costs since demand for sprinklers was so high. Moreover, a recent study produced by the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal determined that the average installation cost was only pennies above NFPA’s national average. In California, the state is experiencing a housing boom, offering further proof that sprinkler requirements do not have a negative impact on the housing market.
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Show your support for home fire sprinklers by responding directly to NAHB’s post with the reasons why you support these life-saving devices.