After a presentation on residential fire suppression sprinklers the City Council gave Fire Chief Randy Mirowski permission to create a group to study the feasibility of requiring sprinklers in new residential construction. The Council asked a lot of good questions. For example, Daryle Klassen wondered why Loveland would require sprinklers in new homes if older homes have a higher risk of fires. Mirowski noted that the age of a house is irrelevant in assessing risk. In fact he said that engineered tresses and other materials used to building new homes makes them burn hotter and quicker.
Clearly the cost of sprinklers is a major concern, as Dave Clark noted. Mirowski said the cost is going down and he believes sprinklers would be affordable if the cost is $1.35 or less a square foot. In addition he said that there may be a way to save money because sprinklered homes could require smaller water meters with a lower water flow. Mirowski suggested that education and incentives could make sprinklers more palatable to developers and consumers.
Another concern raised by Clark and Klassen related to Loveland’s ability to compete with neighboring towns. The City of Greeley included the sprinkler requirement when adopting the 2009 International Residential Code update, but dropped it after developers complained that it hampered their ability to compete in the new home market. So far few communities in Northern Colorado are considering adopting the sprinkler requirement, making this a valid concern according to Mirowski.
Mirowski says all of these questions and concerns will be considered by the task force. It will include private and public sector representatives. Mayor Cecil Guterriez emphasized that partnership and collaboration will be critical. The Fire Chief agreed and said he intends to “go forward with caution and collaboration.”
He told the Council he anticipates a 2 to 5 year study, after which the group’s recommendations will be forwarded to the City Council.