Killing Sprinklers is tied to Substandard Building Codes

Posted by By at 21 April, at 13 : 37 PM Print

With Governor Tom Corbett’s signature, Pennsylvania’s short-lived sprinkler law for all new single and double family homes will be extinguished. Those who favor killing the legislation have dug their heels into the mantra of, its too costly, too intrusive, and its hurting the new home construction industry.

“These additional costs discouraged many families from building and stalled the home building industry right when our housing market was trying to recover from the recession,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R Allegheny).

Somehow the facts went out the roof like billowing smoke. Installing a sprinkler system costs on average about 1 to 1.5 percent of the total dollar amount of construction. In most instances, those dollars add up to the same amount a homeowner would fork out to upgrade carpet or countertops.

If it came down to one or the other, I have a certain amount of faith that a majority of homeowners would choose a life saving device over the installation of a heavier grade of Berber.

To back up my assertion, listen to car commercials, what is touted most often is safety. Why? Because consumers demanded it, and it’s no longer optional; one can not chose Bluetooth over side air bags.

Residential fires kill about 200 people every year in Pennsylvania, just this week a retired police officer lost his life and three firefighters were injured trying to save him as well as protect the property.

One of Pennsylvania’s leading authorities on sprinklers, fires and building codes fired off a letter to Governor Corbett this week. Aus Marburger is a staunch supporter of sprinklers, but he ceded to Corbett that delaying a mandatory sprinkler law may have merit. What Marburger, president of Fire Protection Services, is not willing to waver on is proposed wholesale changes to Act 45, which is packed into the same sprinkler killing bill (H.B. 377).

Marburger, a member of the UCC Review and Advisory Council says if it goes through as is – minimum national construction standards under Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code (UCC) – will be tossed aside.

“Killing sprinklers is bad judgment. I can not come to grips with the lack of ethics and abject stupidity of throwing the UCC under the bus.” In Marburger’s letter to Governor Corbett he writes, “The Pennsylvania UCC is critical to competitive, current and compliant construction industry. It is too important to fast track fundamental change and the flaws are telling.”

That flaw includes giving builders on the Review Advisory Committee (RAC) veto power over any changes to building codes designed to protect life and property.

Governor Corbett supports legislation to kill mandatory sprinklers, but he is apparently reviewing proposed changes to the UCC before signing off on it. Rock The Capital’s call to the governor’s office for comment was not returned.

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