This title appeared in a recent post on the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) blog. The post summarized a column written by NAHB for the new issue of Fire Protection Engineering Magazine, which focused primarily on residential fire safety. Consider the following half-truths and misinformation found in the blog post and magazine column:
NAHB: Our members produce homes built to building codes designed to keep their occupants safer
This statement is partially accurate. NAHB states that newer homes are built to building codes explicitly designed to make homes safer. However, a component of all U.S. model building codes is the requirement—not the option—to sprinkler all new homes. Since fire sprinklers are now an essential component, new homes built without them should be considered substandard.
NAHB: Newer homes tend to be safer 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 occurring 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. NFPA data also suggests that while we have made strides in reducing America’s home fire problem over the past four decades, the risk of dying in a home fire has not changed much if a reported fire occurs. Fire sprinklers have the power to solve this problem.
NAHB: Smoke alarms, not sprinklers, are needed
NFPA is in agreement that working smoke alarms are a necessity in all homes. However, what is needed to reverse the trend of 3,000 people, on average, dying annually in U.S. home fires is fire sprinklers. Smoke alarms will alert you to a fire, but keep in mind today’s fires can become deadly in under two minutes. Fire sprinklers give residents the time needed to escape safely.
NAHB: Sprinklers aren’t cost-effective
NAHB’s statements about installation costs are misleading. Although they cite NFPA’s own sprinkler cost report to defend their argument, 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. As reported in the study, states requiring sprinklers in new homes—Maryland and California—saw a decline in installation costs since demand for sprinklers has surged. 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.
NAHB: Home fire sprinklers are unnecessary
The NAHB column downplaying the necessity of sprinklers appeared in the same issue with another article promoting this technology. SFPE technical director Chris Jelenewicz states in his column that “fire protection engineers continue to support the developments in residential sprinkler technology to increase the ease of installation and reduce the cost of installation while maintaining the effectiveness and reliability” of this technology. If fire sprinklers are seen as a crucial component of protection for the country’s safety experts, why are sprinklers not good enough for NAHB?
Show your support for home fire sprinklers by taking part in a crucial vote keeping this requirement in the model building code. Take action today.