Illinois is considering a plan to make fire sprinklers mandatory in all new single-family and two-family homes built in the state. If approved, Illinois would become the third state in the nation with a sprinkler mandate in residential housing (California and Maryland adopted mandates in January 2011).
The proposal by the Office of Illinois State Fire Marshal will not need legislation to be approved, but a required public hearing will be conducted this week on the measure. If approved, the changes would take effect this year or in early 2014, The Chicago Tribune reports.
The National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code added a recommendation for the use of sprinklers inside homes in 2006. Since then, states and cities have considered making it a mandate for new construction.
Those in support of the rule change argue that automatic fire sprinklers can lower home insurance costs in new-construction homes, as well as save lives.
However, critics say such a mandate would add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home. For example, Brian Brunhofer, president of Meritus Homes, told the Chicago Tribune that installing fire sprinklers adds $9,000 to $10,000 to the cost of a 2,600 square foot to 3,600 square foot home that his company builds.
“I wouldn’t say that’s a feature that many people come in looking for,” Brunhofer told the Chicago Tribune. “We like to let people choose what they want, whether it be on the exterior or the interior. [Fire sprinklers] are designed to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, but you can’t hide a fire suppression sprinkler head.”
Some estates, such as Texas, have taken steps to prohibit municipalities from adopting a requirement of residential sprinklers.