Second Public Hearing Set For Code Updates Requiring Residential Sprinkler Systems
A second public hearing has been scheduled for West U. residents to have their say concerning Residential Code updates that include requiring fire sprinklers in new homes. The hearing is set for the council meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 11 in Council Chambers, 3800 University Blvd. No residents spoke at the first public hearing, held at Monday night’s council meeting, and Councilman Bob Fry suggested holding another before adopting the code.
“It seems like a no brainer but it also seems like something people should be able to discuss,” said Fry.
According to West U. Fire Chief Steve Ralls, requiring residential sprinklers was first brought up in the 1980’s, but was turned down due to the technology at the time and the cost.
Ralls says 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.”
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.”
Anyone wishing to view the proposed local amendments or view information on the residential fire sprinkler requirements of the residential code may visit the Public Works Building at 3826 Amherst between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or click on the “Code Update” tab at westu.org.