Code-change alert: Fire sprinklers in all new homescomments (111) August 11th, 2009 in Blogs
In the Dec/Jan 2009 issue of Fine Homebuilding (#200), I reported on a new code that requires fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes and town houses. The code appears in the 2009 IRC, but doesn’t go into effect until the start of 2011.
It’s a heated issue
I just spent several months researching and writing a feature story on fire sprinklers for our Oct/Nov 2009 issue (#206). The article explores the myths and facts of residential systems, how they work, how much they’ll cost, who will install them, etc. It doesn’t get into the debate that’s flared up (sorry), however, which—from what I can tell—is pretty intense.
Money or life? Hmmm…that’s a tough one
So the whole purpose of fire sprinklers is to save lives. Duh, I know. But I have to make the point because there are people out there who think otherwise. And there are many who are passionately opposed to the new requirement, so much so that they’re spending a lot of time (and by spending I mean lobbying and by time I mean money) trying to block the code from being adopted. Why, you ask? To be honest, I’m wondering the same thing. And my guess is money.
What’s the problem?
Those who oppose the mandate say they’re concerned about the potential of pipes freezing in colder climates, damage from accidental discharge of sprinkler heads, and the availability of adequate water supply in homes served by well water. Let’s take a look at those arguments…
I think most of this concern relates to a standalone system, which is a system of piping separate from the home’s plumbing. The water in these pipes is stagnant until a sprinkler head activates. OK—stagnant water is more susceptible to freezing than moving water (backflow valves are required to prevent contaminating the water supply). But what are the chances of water freezing in a heated home? And don’t we take precautions in new construction to protect all piping from freezing? An alternative is multipurpose systems; the piping in these systems is part of the home’s cold-water line, often made of PEX (which is less susceptible to freeze damage), and the water’s always moving.
Concern about frozen pipes is a lame argument.
posted in: Blogs, business, safety, plumbing, irc, code, fire, fire sprinkler
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