International Residential Code 2015, 2018 and 2021 Editions Continue to Retain Fire Sprinkler Requirement for New Homes
Three complete additional code cycles have been completed since the 2012 IRC was published, and the IRC has continued to retain the fire sprinkler requirement for new homes despite numerous proposals seeking to have the requirement removed. Having continued in five editions of the IRC, it is clear that the nationally recognized standard of care for new home construction includes providing a home fire sprinkler system.
International Residential Code 2012 Edition Retains Fire Sprinkler Requirement for New Homes
No public comments challenging code requirements for residential fire sprinklers were filed for consideration at the ICC Final Action Hearing in Dallas, TX. Accordingly, under ICC regulations, requirements for residential sprinklers were not subject to debate at ICC’s final action hearing in Dallas in May. Instead, proposals to rescind sprinkler requirements from the IRC were automatically disapproved, without discussion, as part of a consent agenda.
ICC’s membership has spoken very clearly on the issue of residential fire sprinklers, implementing requirements using a gradual and measured approach over a period of more than 20 years. ICC’s legacy organizations began requiring fire sprinklers in multifamily occupancies in the 1980s. Those requirements were extended to single family homes in 2006 via an optional IRC appendix, and in 2008, ICC members approved fire sprinklers as a standard feature to be included in all new homes. That action was upheld on appeal and was then reaffirmed last year by the ICC code development committee that oversees the IRC. In the latter vote, EVERY member of the code development committee, other than the four who were appointed by the National Association of Home Builders, voted in favor of residential sprinklers, and that vote was then ratified by a vote of ICC members in attendance at the hearing.
ICC Code Develpment Committee and Members Uphold IRC Fire Sprinkler Requirements
At ICC’s October 2009 Hearing, members of the International Code Councilâ€™s Residential Building Code Committee (RBCC) and the ICC general membership made it clear that fire sprinklers are destined to become a standard feature in all new homes (Press Release). Following passage of the sprinkler requirement in 2008 for inclusion in the 2009 edition of the IRC, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) had sought to have the sprinkler requirement repealed in the 2012 edition. Not only did the RBCC reject this request, but the vote to reject was by a margin of 7 to 4, with every member of the committee, other than the four who are appointed by NAHB, voting to uphold the fire sprinkler requirement.
Following the RBCC vote, NAHB attempted to use a new procedure in the ICC process allowing members assembled at the hearing to overrule the committee decision, but the members made it clear that they were standing firm on protecting American families from fire. More than 1,000 ICC members in attendance voted overwhelmingly to affirm the RBCC’™s decision to keep fire sprinklers in the IRC.
September 21, 2008
ICC Membership Supports Home Fire Sprinklers
On September 21st, 2008, members of the leading building code body in the nation, the International Code Council (ICC), voted overwhelmingly to support the inclusion of residential fire sprinklers as a standard feature in all new homes (Press Release). Voting took place at ICC’s final action hearing in Minneapolis, MN, where ICC’s members passed two proposals to modify the International Residential Code (IRC). The first proposal, RB66, which was submitted by a major multifamily builder, added the requirement for fire sprinklers in townhouses, and the second proposal, RB64, added the requirement for one- and two-family dwellings.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) appealed the adoption of Proposals RB64 and RB66, claiming that procedural irregularities influenced the vote on these items. (Coalition Response to Appeal). In response to the appeal, ICC convened its Appeals Board, which conducted a public hearing on the matter. At the hearing, all interested parties were given an opportunity to testify, and after considering all information presented, the Appeals Board voted unanimously to reject NAHB’s appeal. The rejection was based on a finding that ICC’s policies, procedures and bylaws had all been properly followed. The Appeals Board recommendation to reject the appeal was later affirmed by a unanimous vote of the full ICC Board of Directors.
Following the final decision on NAHB’s appeal, Ronny Coleman, President of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition commented, “This is truly a great day in the history of fire safety. ICC has now officially affirmed that the membership vote to require fire sprinklers in new homes was in compliance with their bylaws and regulations governing code development, and the unanimous vote by their Board of Directors removes any shadow of doubt regarding the legitimacy of the fire sprinkler requirement.â€
With the appeal rejected, The 2009 IRC, which serves as the basis of regulation for new home construction in 48 states plus the District of Columbia, requires fire sprinklers in all new townhouses (effective immediately upon adoption) and in all new one- and two-family dwellings (effective January 1, 2011).
2007-2008 Code Cycle Wrap-up
The International Code Council conducted two code hearings in 2008, one was held in February in Palm Springs,California and the second was held September 17-22 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Final Action Hearing inMinneapolis is where residential sprinkler issues were decided. In Minneapolis, voting governmental members of ICC supported changing the IRC to require fire sprinklers in new homes, making a historic contribution to fire safety that directly addresses the root of America’s fire problem, dwelling fires.
The IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s residential sprinkler proposals were on the agenda as Items RB64-07/08 and RP3-07/08. RB64, which passed by an overwhelming majority, made the residential sprinkler requirement for one- and two-family dwellings part of the 2009 edition of the IRC with an effective date of January 1, 2011. RP3, which was approved as part of the consent agenda without any opposition, adds a simple prescriptive methodology for handling hydraulic design for home fire sprinkler systems.
An additional item that was approved related to residential fire sprinklers is Item RB66, which was submitted by a major multifamily builder. This change added a requirement for all townhouses to be equipped with fire sprinklers in the 2009 IRC, while providing an incentive permitting the separation wall between units to be reduced from a 2-hour fire rating to a 1-hour fire rating. This one incentive, which was already permitted by the International Building Code for larger townhouses, was quoted as offsetting the entire cost of a residential fire sprinkler system for a typical townhouse.