The IRC fire sprinkler requirement, has been adopted statewide by the states of California and Maryland and by the District of Columbia, with many other states and local jurisdictions considering this requirement when they update their codes.

Home builder associations (HBAs) in many states 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.  Today, more than five years after requiring all new homes to have fire sprinklers, the housing markets in California and Maryland are thriving, and new homes with this state-of-the-art fire- and life-safety feature provide home builders with a competitive advantage over resale properties that do not include sprinkler systems.

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.