The unpopular new law imposing strict regulations on the inclusion of sprinkler systems in all new Pennsylvania one-family and two-family homes is being widely opposed by builders, home owners and local officials, which is not news.
What is news is that state elected officials are now joining the chorus of opponents.
At a recent meeting of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, state representative Michael Peifer said, “We’re going to overturn it,” to a chorus of cheering business people.
“There is a lot of opposition from rural areas and not so much from urban areas,” said Elam Herr, assistant director of Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS). “Urban communities have accepted it, but not rural areas.”
Herr said that legislation would be introduced this week to repeal the mandatory provision that applies to one-family and two-family homes.
“It’s not clear yet who the main sponsor will be,” he said. “The legislation gives a community the ability to adopt the provision or reject it if they wish. Areas that don’t want it can pass on it.”
Smoke detectors save lives but sprinkler systems save property, he said.
The law that was passed in 2009 and took effect on January 1, 2011 will cost approximately $3.49 per square foot, or just shy of $8,000 for the average home, according to Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA). Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to pass such a law.
Attempts to change the law through the courts failed. PBA sought an injunction in Commonwealth Court and failed. The same occurred when the organization turned to the State Appellate Court.
On the other side of the issue, however, John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, applauded the law, stating, “This is a tremendous victory for the residents and fire service professionals in the Commonwealth.”
The inclusion of residential fire sprinklers requirements is a response to the growing U.S. fire problem, fire officials say. About 85 percent of all fires occur in homes and many are accelerated by more flammable home contents, he said. Additionally, new “lightweight” construction materials cause the building to fail quicker.
“Smoke detectors are no longer enough in residential fires, as the time to escape a house fire has dwindled from 17 minutes 20 years ago to three minutes today,” Vineillo said.