Update on Proposed Code to Install Sprinkler Systems in Residential Homes.

July 30, 2009

Source: Michigan Association of REALTORS®

Building Code Review Committee votes in favor of omitting code section: Section would mandate the installation of sprinkler systems in new residential homes and townhouses.

Last week, the MAR testified alongside Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and many homebuilders across the state in opposition to a proposal to mandate fire sprinkler systems in all new homes through the state construction code. The proposal called for the installation of these costly systems in all new residential homes and townhouses.

During these hard economic times, citizens are having more difficulties than ever with the home buying and selling market. Add costly government mandates on top of the current market trend, and the odds are stacked against a successful sale of a residential home.

There are already mandates in place for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in new builds. A 2008 study from the National Fire Prevention Association shows that chances of surviving a reported home fire when working smoke alarms are present is 99.45%. Clearly, every fire death is a tragedy. However, the solution to reducing these deaths isn't mandating expensive sprinkler systems; it is to make sure every home has working smoke alarms.

The Bureau of Construction Codes Building Code Review Committee voted 10- 2 in favor of the proposed code change to delete the mandatory aspect of the installation of sprinkler systems in residential homes and townhouses. While our association fully supports voluntary installation of sprinklers at the election of the homeowner, we opposed the proposed code section given its mandatory nature.

The average quote a Michigan homebuilder received from a sprinkler contractor for installing a sprinkler system for homes on municipal water was $6,566; for homes with well water, the average was $11,976. In addition, these systems require minimum monthly maintenance, inspections, and in Michigan's colder climate, some systems must be drained and refilled every year. Add the long term costs to maintain and inspect the sprinkler systems, and those figures skyrocket.

The Code Review Committee continues to evaluate other sections and proposed changes to the code and will then hold a public hearing on the entire code. Following the public hearing, the final decision will be made by the Director of the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG).

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