New law mandates sprinklers in new townhomes, duplexes |

New law mandates sprinklers in new townhomes, duplexes

Tonya Bina/ Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

Grand County Commissioners adopted the 2009 International Building Codes with something new by way of a sprinkler-system mandate.

Starting 2013 in Grand County, sprinkler systems will be required in townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes of new construction as part of the updated codes.

But commissioners opted to exclude single-family detached residential housing from the sprinkler-system section of the code, citing cost, in spite of the local firefighting community’s plea to keep it included.

East Grand Fire Chief Todd Holzwarth argued that mandating sprinkler systems in all structures could create trade-offs in needed infrastructure during development. If sprinkler systems were guaranteed, he said, fire districts might reduce storage requirements and be more forgiving with accesses, street widths and switchbacks. And, with sprinkler-system mandates for single-family residences now in the IBC, their cost eventually may go down, he said.

Sprinkler systems also promote the conservation of water, according to East Grand Firefighter Dennis Soles. Without sprinklers in homes, fire districts may use about “ten times” more water to put out a house fire, which would create “ten times the water pollution and air pollution,” he said.

Holzwarth estimated there have been four fatalities from fires in single-family homes in Grand County from 1979 to 2009.

Mandating sprinkler systems may be premature, according to insurance agent Kirk Arnold of Granby.

Fire districts now have the opportunity to educate homeowners about sprinkler systems, he said, and any homeowner can install them on their own without a law. According to his research, insurance companies are offering home insurance discounts from 1.5 percent to about 7 percent for sprinkler systems in homes.