Council Wants Another Public Hearing On Code Requiring Sprinkler Systems In New Residential Construction
West U. City Council postponed adopting new code amendments because of a section requiring sprinkler systems in all new homes. According to West U. Fire Chief Steve Ralls, the amendment was first brought up in the 1980’s, but was turned down due to the technology at the time and the cost.
According to Ralls, it would cost about $2 per square foot to have the sprinkler systems installed. The average home in West U. is 4,000 sq. ft., making the average cost of the proposed amendment $8,000 per new construction. Older homes in which 50 percent or more of the home is altered or repaired will be required to be brought up to the new code.
“The fire sprinkler will put the fire out while it is still small, or it will keep it in check until we (firefighters) get there,” said Ralls. “It gives people more time to get out and gives my firefighter a safer time when they get there. I worry about the safety of my firefighters just as much as I worry about the safety of our residents.”
“It seems like a no brainer but it also seems like something people should be able to discuss,” said Councilman Bob Fry, when asking for another public hearing on the matter. The public hearing has not yet been scheduled.
According to Ralls, Memorial Villages has required residential sprinkler systems since 1999, the City of Bellaire since 2001 and the City of Southside Place for at least the past four years.
Ralls told council that the sprinkler systems, which are installed flush with the ceiling and covered with a film that melts at more than 100 degrees, would save lives and create safer fire fighting conditions for firefighters. He also told council that only one sprinkler will go off at a time, directly in the area of the fire, which would eliminate the fear of the entire house being soaked.
Ralls says builders are against the code amendment because of the additional cost.
“The safety should outweigh the minor cost to the house,” said Ralls. “People spend more than that for decorations.”