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  1. #1
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    Default fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Rule would require sprinklers in new Pa. homes

    BRIAN C. RITTMEYER
    The Associated Press
    TARENTUM, Pa. - Beginning next year, all new one- and two-family houses built in Pennsylvania will be required to have an automatic fire sprinkler system.
    Safety officials and other supporters say the systems , more commonly seen in business and commercial buildings , will save lives and reduce property damage.
    But those who build and sell homes say the requirement , along with other building code changes , will add thousands of dollars to the price of a new home and hinder the housing market recovery.
    The change has prompted a lawsuit, and efforts by some lawmakers to block the requirement.
    Under the 2009 Uniform Construction Code, which the state follows , sprinklers are required in new homes starting Jan. 1, 2011.
    According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 414,000 residential fires in 2007, the most recent year available. They resulted in 2,895 deaths, 14,000 injuries and $7.5 billion in property damage.
    Fire administration studies say residential sprinkler systems could save thousands of lives, greatly reduce injuries and eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in property losses.
    Sprinkler systems cost $1 to $1.50 per square foot in new construction , about the price of a carpet upgrade. Insurance discounts for those with sprinklers range from 5 percent to 15 percent, according to the fire administration.
    Home systems are much simpler than their commercial counterparts, said Ed Howley, of Building Inspection Underwriters in Jeannette. They use plastic pipe and run off a home's water system.
    "It's not intended to put out the fire completely," Howley said. "It's intended to suppress the fire to give people time to get out of the building and first responders to get there."
    Pennsylvania is the first state in the U.S. to adopt the requirement, according to the National Fire Sprinkler Association, a trade association.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    They have been required in Scottsdale since the early 90's. I think around Breckenridge, Co they have been required for residences too.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    A couple thousand $/house versus a couple thousand lives lost to fire every year. Tough choice, eh?


  4. #4
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by fritzkelly View Post
    "and reduce property damage"
    Try "Increase property damage".
    Fritz,

    I'm trying to figure that one out:
    a) Fire totally destroys structure.
    versus
    b) Sprinkler puts fire out resulting in the loss of all the belongings in the structure due to water damage, structure is gutted to frame and drywall replaced.

    Let's see, now which one has the most "property damage"?
    a) TOTAL DESTRUCTION?
    or
    b) Structure is suitable for renovation?

    That's a real hard one there - NOT!

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Jerry
    Very few house fires are a total loss.
    From some of the houses I,ve seen, as much or more damage is caused by the water. Even when the fire was localized to a small area, everything had water damage.

    No, I am not saying don't use water, or let it burn.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    If my house is on fire, I would appreciate it if you would just let it burn to the ground. That is of course, assuming that we are all out of the house by that point. However, that's just my love/hate relationship with my own place.

    You could probably plug just about any construction improvement into that article, from using a ground wire all of the way up to the current sprinkler regs, and it would be the same article.

    The regulating agency requires "X", the NAHB and others claim that doing "X" will drive the price of homes up too high, etc.

    I do think that it is a good idea to continue to ban the burn accellerators used in cigarettes, since that is a large factor in fire deaths nation wide.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Very few house fires are a total loss.

    Most house fires I've seen, the houses are a total loss.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    All of the fire sprinklers dont go off, most likely 1 or 2. Water damage is localized to a part of the house. Most of your irreplacable belongings survive. You and your family have a better chance of surviving. When my brother was a fire marshall he would tell us that no one had ever died from fire in a building with operable sprinklers.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by fritzkelly View Post
    Fire sprinklers are required here in houses over a certain sq footage and in condos. There is one condo complex, built in 1998 that has had 2 (that I know of) basically ruined by sprinkler malfunctions (one with the help of an HVAC tech that was there because of me). None have ever been activated by fires that I know of. One big problems seems to be that nobody knows how to shut them off.
    As far as saving lives, if it is hot enough to melt the metal, or plastic or break the alcohol bulb, do you really think people are hanging around?
    There's a reason you only get 5-10% off on your homeowners insurance. They are the ones who have run the numbers.
    Your homeowners is made up of many protections. You have fire, theft, water damage, storm damage, vandalism, etc etc. How much of a discount to you get for a monitored burgler alarm.

    If your drapes catch fire on a lamp or candle that fire can spread very quickly. The room can be engulfed in seconds and a fire will double in size every 4 minutes. A fire sprinkler would dose that fire and either knock it back or put it out before the fire truck arrived. Damage would be confined. Most importantly lives would be saved.

    When the fire department arrives they would know how to shut off the water. For the 10-15 minutes the water was running you would be talking of how many gallons of water? 100 -200 hundered. The fire deparment would put more than that on the fire every minute and the fire would hav tripled in size.

    If the fire were to start in an unoccupied residence how long would the fire burn before someone even called the FD. All the personal property inside would be ruined including many irrecplaceable items. With a sprinkler system the fire would be contained to a small area. An alarm would be sounded when the sprinkler is activated so response from the FD would be much quicker and the water would be shut off without running for hours.

    We fret about spending a small amount on a sprinkler system but adding $2-3K on a smaller house would up the house payment by how much - not much. People spend more than that on upgrades to a car every few years. Tell me which makes more sense.


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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    "An alarm would be sounded when the sprinkler is activated so response from the FD would be much quicker and the water would be shut off without running for hours."

    I basically agree with almost everything you said, but as far as I know, this part is not required nor has it been mentioned in the new code.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  11. #11
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Seems to me that most house fires occur in older homes that are not going to be protected. That we have had a century of adopting safer construction metholds, that we finally figured out how to treat electricity.
    We can never help those who would lay on a couch with a lit cigarette.
    Except the cigarettes are being mandated to go out if not puffed on, the chemical they use to do that is probably more harmful than anything found in the tobacco and additives. Oh yeah, the couch has a flame retard. If that is not enough now we are going to wet him down. I see no long term benefit to this, if in fact the rest of the house is build to the new codes. Jimmmy the cricket, update the alarm systems.


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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Most "fire trucks" are known within the trade as pumpers. Pumpers usually have a 500 gallons tank and 2 or 3 one inch hose reels. A truck can pump 100 gallons a minute though a 1 inch hose. Usually as the pumper approaches the scene, a firefighter jumps off at the nearest hydrant while grabbing a hydrant wrench and the end of the supply hose. Wrap the house around the hydrant and the pumper pulls away laying hose to wards the fire. Once the pumper reaches the scene, the hose is connected to the hydrant. At the same time other fire fighters are pulling the 1 inch hose and heading towards the burning structure. That gives the first in fire fighters 5 minutes of water before they need the supply from the hydrant.

    While in the movies, if one sprinkler goes they all go. That is not real life. Each sprinkler head is independently controlled by a temp sensitive release mechanism (fuse). Once the magic temp is reached, the fuse melts and allows water to flow. The other sprinkler heads do not flow water.

    From the moment of ignition of a single christmas tree in a 8x8 room until the entire room is totally engulfed in flames is about 2-3 minutes. Sprinklers would extingish the fire before that happened. Then the water damage would start. 10 minutes of water damage is easier to repair than 10 minutes of raging fire.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  13. #13
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    Seems to me that most house fires occur in older homes that are not going to be protected.

    And homes built this year will be older homes ... when?

    Think into the future for benefits from current requirements.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    Most "fire trucks" are known within the trade as pumpers. Pumpers usually have a 500 gallons tank and 2 or 3 one inch hose reels. A truck can pump 100 gallons a minute though a 1 inch hose. Usually as the pumper approaches the scene, a firefighter jumps off at the nearest hydrant while grabbing a hydrant wrench and the end of the supply hose. Wrap the house around the hydrant and the pumper pulls away laying hose to wards the fire. Once the pumper reaches the scene, the hose is connected to the hydrant. At the same time other fire fighters are pulling the 1 inch hose and heading towards the burning structure. That gives the first in fire fighters 5 minutes of water before they need the supply from the hydrant.

    While in the movies, if one sprinkler goes they all go. That is not real life. Each sprinkler head is independently controlled by a temp sensitive release mechanism (fuse). Once the magic temp is reached, the fuse melts and allows water to flow. The other sprinkler heads do not flow water.

    From the moment of ignition of a single christmas tree in a 8x8 room until the entire room is totally engulfed in flames is about 2-3 minutes. Sprinklers would extingish the fire before that happened. Then the water damage would start. 10 minutes of water damage is easier to repair than 10 minutes of raging fire.
    My first thoughts on adding sprinklers to residential construction was the added expense, liability and maintenance with minimum advantage. One of thing I love about this site is the different perspectives and insight that make you think.

    Good post Bruce, Thanks.


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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    the cost of a compliant system to people that live in rural areas and on a well can get spendy, more than $1 or $2 p.s.f. as quoted . if you have a poor producing well with slow recovery you will probably have to install a 5k,10k or 20k storage tank with a pressure pump depending on the fire flow requirements for the system.pipe freezing issues will have to be addressed as well, unless you install a dry system requiring a compressor$ or an anti-freeze filled system, look out for cross contamination. who will maintain and inspect the system as required yearly$? $1 p.s.f. will buy the blazemaster pvc pipe, maybe. an average shack could cost $5,000, $10,000,or maybe up to $20,000.
    who really stands to benefit from the new requirement? the plastic pipe industry and the insurance industry are doing some serious partying on your dollars. what about us rural folks that stand a far greater possibility of losing our homes and lives from a forest fire? sprinkle the trees? i think it should be a personal choice, not a guvmint mandate! chock another one up for lobbyist and private industry slipping their hand in your wallet under the pretense of saving us from ourselves. i ran with scissors in my hands when i was young!

    Last edited by brian schmitt; 03-11-2010 at 11:00 AM. Reason: spelim

  16. #16
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    I have several questions: Who is going to maintain the systems and who is going to inspect the systems?


  17. #17
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick McCaffery View Post
    I have several questions: Who is going to maintain the systems and who is going to inspect the systems?
    the homeowner will be responsible to maintain the system to the expectations of the insurance companies, including hiring inspectors for whatever inspections the insurance companies may require.the ahj will perform and and approve the initial install. home inspectors will inspect at time of sales? what happens when someone is late with a water bill and the water is cut off? will the insurance company pay out in case of a fire?


  18. #18
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by brian schmitt View Post
    the cost of a compliant system to people that live in rural areas and on a well can get spendy, more than $1 or $2 p.s.f. as quoted . if you have a poor producing well with slow recovery you will probably have to install a 5k,10k or 20k storage tank with a pressure pump depending on the fire flow requirements for the system.pipe freezing issues will have to be addressed as well, unless you install a dry system requiring a compressor$ or an anti-freeze filled system, look out for cross contamination. who will maintain and inspect the system as required yearly$? $1 p.s.f. will buy the blazemaster pvc pipe, maybe. an average shack could cost $5,000, $10,000,or maybe up to $20,000.
    who really stands to benefit from the new requirement? the plastic pipe industry and the insurance industry are doing some serious partying on your dollars. what about us rural folks that stand a far greater possibility of losing our homes and lives from a forest fire? sprinkle the trees? i think it should be a personal choice, not a guvmint mandate! chock another one up for lobbyist and private industry slipping their hand in your wallet under the pretense of saving us from ourselves. i ran with scissors in my hands when i was young!
    I design fire sprinkler systems and I agree with you they whether or not to have them in your home should be your decision. Same with smoke detectors; if you don't want them you shouldn't be made to have them.

    For new construction I agree the cost should be between $1 and $2 per sq. ft. If in an area where freezing won't be an issue $1.00 to $1.25 per sq. ft. should do it but if in Minnesota expect to pay more for a good system. Figure $1.50 to $2.00 in new construction.

    The National Fire Protection Association last August came out with a TIA banning the use use of anti-freeze in dwelling units.

    NFPA 13, 2010 version, TIA 10-01, effective date 8/25/10
    1. Add a new section 7.6.1 as follows:

    7.6.1 Dwelling Units. Antifreeze shall not be permitted to be used within the dwelling unit portions of sprinkler systems.

    2. Renumber the remainder of the section accordingly.
    While applying to 13 and not specifically 13R I don't see anyone in the industry touching this anymore. Liability is to great.

    As you see more of these residential systems you will discover there are good installations and poor ones. Like anything.

    In areas of the country where freezing is never an issue I don't have a problem running pipe in attic spaces but once you move into possible freeze territory running supply piping in attics is just nuts. I don't care if you tent the insulation it's nuts because you can be sure sometime over the next 30 years someone will climb up in that attic to do some work an all you need is six small inches of exposed pipe and you got potential for a full out disaster.

    It would cost you a little more, add maybe $500 to $1,000 on to a typical house, but I would run everything in the interior walls using sidewall sprinklers. Everything is below the ceiling in the heated area. Nothing above the ceiling and nothing in the exterior walls.

    Dry systems would be a disaster if used. A typical wet system takes very little maintenance, almost no testing required it doesn't have any moving parts and just sits there. A dry pipe system is another matter and I would do anything to keep from saddling a homeowner with this (a dry pipe system) turkey.

    From an inspection point of view the biggest problem I see is painting of sprinkler heads. You don't do this and I should add cleaning painted sprinkler heads is not allowed by standard and must be replaced.

    Best set up is a single supply into the home with a single shut-off valve that shuts both sprinkler and domestic water off. No separate shut-off for sprinkler the idea being if the toilet doesn't flush people won't stick around.

    The scenario out in the country on a well would add some costs but certainly not as high as $5,000, $10,000,or maybe up to $20,000 indicated.

    Instead of a well use a small stored water supply with small pump.

    From NFPA #13D

    6.1 General Provisions.
    6.1.1 Every automatic sprinkler system shall have at least one automatic water supply.
    6.1.2 Where stored water is used as the sole source of supply, the minimum quantity shall equal the water demand rate times 10 minutes unless permitted otherwise by 6.1.3.
    6.1.3 Where stored water is used as the sole source of supply, the minimum quantity shall be permitted to equal the two-sprinkler water demand rate times 7 minutes where dwelling units meet the following criteria:
    (1) One story in height
    (2) Less than 2000 ft2 (186 m2) in area
    So if the house is more than single story or larger than 2,000 sq. ft. a 10 minute water supply is needed.

    What is 10 minutes?

    Depends on design. The absolute worst would be using heads listed for 20'x20' spacing which require 20 gpm each. With the maximum required two heads operating that would be 40 gpm which = 400 gallons for 10 minutes. That is the highest it could be.

    In actual practice it would be much lower.

    For example if using the VK435 sprinkler on page 3 we see the design for 12'x12' spacing is just 9 gpm (18 gpm for 2 heads) or 10 gpm (20 gpm) for for two sprinkler design based on 14'x14' spacing. For a large house you are only looking at a stored water supply of 200 gallons and this is not a lot of water.

    How about a little larger well or holding tank? 200 gallons is larger than normal but it isn't that big.

    I don't like the idea of a separate water system. For these systems to be effective they must be kept simple. Really, really simple.

    Home fire sprinklers are not meant or designed to save property. In the event of a fire we don't care about the property what the sprinklers do is give time to get out by preventing flash over. Google fire flashover if you want to see something scary.

    For inspections they will be done by the homeowner. Commercial fire sprinkler inspections I can do but the last thing I would want to do is tell a homeowner "Hi, I am your fire sprinkler inspector, I am going to visit your home once a year for 10 minutes and give you a bill for $100 which goes on forever." Yeah, that would be good.

    But that all said I see a real mess brewing unless we do a much better job at educating the public.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Gould View Post
    I design fire sprinkler systems and I agree with you they whether or not to have them in your home should be your decision. Same with smoke detectors; if you don't want them you shouldn't be made to have them.

    With that thinking ... why even have a building code at all?

    If you want your structure to be safe and strong ... make it your choice.

    I would agree with you under one set of conditions: That the home is deed restricted to: a) NEVER be sold out of the family who made that decision; b) NEVER be occupied by anyone except members of the family who made that decision; c) NEVER be leased or rented to anyone except to members of the family who made that decision; d) NEVER allow the responsible party in the family who made that decision to LIVE ANYWHERE ELSE; e) other restrictions as I think of them.

    Otherwise ... you are totally disregarding the fact that OTHER people will eventually own and occupy that house, and THEY had no part in the decision to not install sprinklers.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  20. #20
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    With that thinking ... why even have a building code at all?

    If you want your structure to be safe and strong ... make it your choice.

    I would agree with you under one set of conditions: That the home is deed restricted to: a) NEVER be sold out of the family who made that decision; b) NEVER be occupied by anyone except members of the family who made that decision; c) NEVER be leased or rented to anyone except to members of the family who made that decision; d) NEVER allow the responsible party in the family who made that decision to LIVE ANYWHERE ELSE; e) other restrictions as I think of them.

    Otherwise ... you are totally disregarding the fact that OTHER people will eventually own and occupy that house, and THEY had no part in the decision to not install sprinklers.
    jp,
    you may as well restrict deeds for all the existing homes in america built prior to the sprinkler requirement. they are all death traps. i think i'll add 10,000 sq. ft. to my shack and not install sprinklers and still meet the code. your grand vision of every house in America having sprinklers will happen in several hundred years when all the existing homes with new additions are gone. you think they should have pushed for retro-fitting all existing homes to the new code?


  21. #21
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    Default Re: fire sprinklers to be required in PA

    Quote Originally Posted by brian schmitt View Post
    jp,
    you may as well restrict deeds for all the existing homes in america built prior to the sprinkler requirement. they are all death traps. i think i'll add 10,000 sq. ft. to my shack and not install sprinklers and still meet the code. your grand vision of every house in America having sprinklers will happen in several hundred years when all the existing homes with new additions are gone. you think they should have pushed for retro-fitting all existing homes to the new code?
    Brian,

    Soooo ... you are not arguing against not have a building code cover mandatory requirements YOU AGREE WITH ... just not covering requirements you disagree with?

    Interesting concept.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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