The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 26, 2011

State sprinkler law evaporates

Corbett signs repeal

HARRISBURG — Legislation repealing the sprinkler mandate that required such systems in new homes in Pennsylvania became Gov. Tom Corbett’s first bill to sign into law on Monday.

Corbett’s signing of House Bill 377, sponsored by Rep. Garth Everett, R-84 of Lycoming County, effectively erased the sprinkler law from the Uniform Construction Code that went into effect Jan. 1.

The law required all new single- and dual-family home construction in the state as of 2011 to have automatic sprinkler systems.

“Whether or not new homes are equipped with sprinklers should be a decision left to individual consumers and not the government,” Corbett said. “While there are arguments on both sides of this issue, I believe the sprinkler mandate is wrong-headed, and I’m glad the General Assembly sent this bill to my desk.”

Advocates said sprinklers would save people’s homes from extensive fire damage as well as the lives of the residents and firefighters.

But builders and home construction-related businesses disagreed. The Pennsylvania Builders Association claimed such systems added unnecessary costs — anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 — to homes in an already-flagging industry and effectively priced some potential homeowners out of some markets.

The sprinkler mandate “was basically going to add a lot of cost to a home at a very small increase in the safety factor, and it was handicapping the housing industry in Pennsylvania,” Everett said in a statement Monday.

He called the legislation a great example of lawmakers and the administration cooperating to remove a regulation that was hurting both state homeowners and home builders.

Builders still must install sprinkler systems in multi-family residences, including townhouses.

The law also looks at better safety standards, requiring increased fire protection for lightweight floor assemblies and builders to offer sprinkler systems to buyers at point of sale.

The state Senate passed an amended version of the bill 33-17. Local state Reps. Fred Keller, R-85 of Kreamer, Kurt Masser, R-107 of Elysburg, and Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108 of Sunbury, all voted to repeal the sprinkler mandate. The measure passed the state House 129-68.

Keller called the bill “an important piece of legislation that needed to be addressed and appropriately so. This legislation won’t sacrifice safety because there are safeguards already. I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Keller said he talked to many constituents who told him the sprinkler law didn’t make sense for this region of Pennsylvania.

That echoes Everett’s position that the bill put undue burden on rural residents who aren’t on a municipal water system.

Pennsylvania and California were the only states in the nation to implement the measure as part of the triennial adoption of the International Codes Council family of technical building codes.

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