For Innovative Framing & Creative Engineering, Embrace Sprinklers

Mandatory sprinklers for single-family homes has been a controversial subject between homebuilders and fire officials. The debate over the value of sprinklers typically centers on one or more of the following issues:

  1. Statistics strongly suggest sprinklers save lives and reduce property damage. 
  2. Sprinkler installation raises the cost of construction.
  3. The viability of sprinkler operation is questioned, given differences in municipal and rural water supplies.
  4. A building owner can shut off the sprinkler system.
  5. There are instances where a sprinkler system can activat outside of a fire event, causing unnecessary property damage.
  6. Some in the fire service are concerned over local governmental policies and the potential for reduced fire service budgets if laws are introduced that are favorable to mandatory use of sprinklers in all buildings.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has put out a series of articles exploring the affordable use of sprinkler systems in single-family construction.

Scottsdale, Arizona is a test-case of what sprinkler requirements can do in a community. This article explores the development of housing in a community following a city ordinance mandating sprinklers, following both the reaction from the fire service and from homebuilders. While homebuilders remain skeptical, a long-time member of the fire service points out that no firefighter has died since the ordinance passed.

In this article, one homebuilder argues, “home fire sprinklers are well worth the investment." They’re becoming more and more affordable, they reduce water use and property damage in the event of a fire, and they have the potential to save lives. The article points out that unprotected floor assemblies -- whether legacy or lightweight construction – simply don’t last long enough to protect residents or the fire service.

In the event a municipality adopts mandatory sprinklers, this article covers ten things builders should know – including how they can be installed and the cost of adding sprinklers to new construction.

SBCA continues to believe that state and local ordinances should be adopted to eliminate Exception 4 from IRC-12 R501.3 and IRC-15 R302.13. By failing to consider and taking proper care with respect to public domain ASTM E119 100% design load testing and analytical reporting by UL and SBCA, public policy  could lead to a firefighter falling through an unprotected 2x10 or Flak Jacket® coated I-joist floor and being maimed or killed due to an erroneous assumption the system adheres to the notion that legacy  floor performance is safe. In contrast, by providing a ½” gypsum wallboard membrane ceiling to all floor systems, 20 minutes of actual performance time is likely to be present. For more information on the fire performance of floor systems, click here.

Sprinklers provide even greater safety in the event of a fire, while allowing for the use of innovative framing and construction systems that can break through the constraints imposed by legacy performance and tradition. Positive forward progress can only be made in both affordability and creative engineering by those that embrace change.

For additional information:

  1. 2 Firefighters Killed When Legacy Floor Collapse
  2. Firefighter Deaths Underscore Importance of SBCA's Code Change Concepts
  3. NAHB Policy Supports Truss Construction, Why are They Testifying Against It?
  4. AWC Stands Firm on Legacy Floor; UL Suggests this Isn't Wise. Do More Firefighters Have to Die?




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