Mandatory fire sprinkler systems have been part of the International Residential Building Code since 2009. However few municipalities have opted to include the sprinkler requirement.
The City of Boulder is preparing to join Boulder County, Superior, Westminster, Golden, Federal Heights, Cherry Hills Village and Snowmass Village in requiring fire suppression sprinkler systems for all new single-family residential construction. It should be noted that many jurisdictions require sprinkler systems for multi-family developments, including Boulder and Greeley. Cities that have chosen not to implement the single-family fire sprinkler requirement include the City and County of Denver, Centennial, Thornton, Lone Tree, Rifle, Glenwood Springs; and Longmont.
The debate over this provision of the code typically centers on cost. Fire officials, who support the sprinklers, say a system will cost between $2 and $2.25 a square foot. Builders and architects, many of whom oppose the provision, say the cost is far more likely to be $3 to $4 a square foot.
Another factor that must be considered is the water service line. For most properties, the main water service line would be adequate to operate the sprinklers. However for others an additional water line would be necessary, adding $10,000 to $20,000 to the cost.
All of these costs are passed to the consumer and there is considerable debate about the need for fire suppression sprinklers. Do sprinklers add a necessary level of safety for home occupants? It depends upon whom you ask.
The ordinance requires a third and final hearing. Assuming it is approved by City Council, it’s slated to go into effect Jan. 31, 2014.