2012 Edition of the
International Residential Code Retains Fire Sprinklers as Standard Feature in New Homes
When the International Code Council (ICC) publishes the 2012 International Residential Code next year, the code will include a requirement for fire sprinklers to be a standard feature in new homes. That requirement was initially added to the IRC in the 2009 edition, and ICC's members soundly rejected efforts by the National Association of Home Builders to have the requirement repealed in 2012.
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 at a 2009 public hearing before the ICC Residential Building Code Committee (RBCC), which oversees the IRC.
When the 2009 RBCC vote was taken, EVERY member of the committee, other than the four who were appointed by the National Association of Home Builders, voted in favor of home fire sprinklers. The RBCC vote was then ratified by more than 1,000 ICC members in attendance at the hearing.
When the ICC final action hearing was held in Dallas, Texas to finish the 2012 Code edition's development cycle in May 2010, there were no public comments opposing the IRC sprinkler requirement. As a result, the requirement will be included in the 2012 edition of the IRC.
States Adopting IRC
Fire Sprinkler Requirements
The 2009 IRC, including the fire sprinkler requirement, has been adopted by California, Pennsylvania, Maryland and South Carolina, with many other states and local jurisdictions planning to consider this requirement when they update their codes.
Home builder associations (HBAs) in many states have pulled out all stops in an effort to block adoption of the IRC sprinkler provisions. One notable exception is the State of California, where the building industry association supported adoption of the IRC with the residential sprinkler requirement included.
One issue that may ultimately shift the perspective of builders towards residential fire sprinklers is legal liability. Regardless of whether a state or locality chooses to amend fire sprinkler requirements out of the IRC, courts may well hold that it is incumbent upon builders to follow established standards of care for fire safety when they construct a new home. With EVERY national code now requiring EVERY new residential property to be equipped with fire sprinklers, that standard of care is clearly established and is now well known to the industry, especially given the high profile of HBA opposition to sprinklers. Accordingly, whenever a fire involving a post-2010 home is litigated, perhaps by a grieving family or by an insurance company seeking to recoup a payout for fire damage, a decision by a builder to not include sprinklers in a new home will be easily characterized as negligent, with a deliberate indifference towards life and property that yielded a defective home.
NFPA Responds to Flawed Information Offered by Home Builders Opposing Sprinklers
The National Fire Protection Association has analyzed substantiation statements by anti-sprinkler interests in their proposals to diminish or delete the IRC's fire sprinkler requirements. The NFPA's response is truly planted "right on the chin!" You've got to read this.