Huntley Residential Sprinkler Debate

In “News Clippings” about a week ago I posted a short blip on Huntley, Illinois consideration of rescinding a sprinkler requirement in new homes adopted two years ago. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I gave this story the attention it deserves. The Village Board is considering rescinding the requirement for fire sprinklers in single family dwelling citing, none other than . . . cost.

In this article from the McHenry County Daily Herald, Conor Brown of the McHenry County Association of Realtors is quoted as saying,

‘fire sprinklers are costly, prone to malfunctioning and depress Huntley’s real estate market.'”

We’ve all heard the argument about cost. The focus of my attention on Mr. Conor’s quote is “prone to malfunctioning.” I’m elated to hear that Fire Chief Jim Saletta, “hasn’t received one complaint from residents living in the more than 1,300 Huntley homes with fire sprinklers.” Chief Saletta goes on to say that,

. . . sprinklers actually boost the value of a home, citing a 2005 Harris Interactive poll in which two-thirds of respondents said fire sprinklers increase a home’s value.”

The village Board is getting pressure from somewhere. The article finally states that the, “trustees said they needed more resident input and more information on the cost of the systems to make a decision.” Do you see what I’m getting at? Did the residents bring this to the table or did the McHenry Country Association of Realtors? I’m not an expert on city/county politics but it seems to me if the residents didn’t like the requirement they would’ve represented themselves at the meeting.

I don’t know. It’s strange to me that a requirement has been set and now, after only two years, they’re talking about amending it. Stay tuned!

P.S. Don’t blame the “depressed real estate market” on fire sprinklers.

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3 thoughts on “Huntley Residential Sprinkler Debate

  1. A few years ago I ran across a great article published by the state fire marshal of Minnesota.

    The fire marshal was lamenting; someone was undermining efforts to get fire sprinklers installed in one and two family dwellings and after a bit of research he concluded “the enemy is us” meaning the existing building code and fire bureaucracy.

    As a certified NICET IV sprinkler designer with over 30 years experience I realize more then anyone the dangers involved with allowing any plumber to install sprinklers on a “feel good” basis but I don’t think a single family dwelling needs a full review that’s given to a seven story apartment building either.

    Let me give an example.

    Some time ago the fire chief for a medium sized town, population around 150,000 people, asked for a meeting about what could be done to encourage new homes be equipped with sprinkler systems. Of course I volunteered.

    First problem we had was the water department. A single family home required a 3/4″ domestic water tap and I suggested the city provide a 1 1/4″ tap. Problem was the water department charged a minimum $25 a month for a 3/4″ tap but wanted $250 a month for a 1 1/4″ tap saying the “capacity” was there and they had to charge for it.

    $250 a month for something you never use, at least hope not, is a big strike one. As a home owner I sure would balk at $250 a month seeing that as a boat or motorcylce payment. Maybe even payment on a cheap car.

    The local plan review wanted a full set of drawings plus a minimum plan review fee of $125.00. Look, I’ll GIVE you the sprinkler heads they’re cheap it is the cost of the regulatory overburden that jacks the price all to heaven.

    To sprinkler a three bedroom home I would guess a maximum of maybe eight sprinklers with pipe, fittings and sprinklers maybe costing $50.00 each. All material for $400.00 tops.

    Speaking labor one man should be able to do the rough in installation in a single day with finish (plates) and final connection taking maybe another day. Figure labor at $70 an hour you got $1,120.00. In an ideal world you should be able to install sprinklers in a single family dwelling for under $2,000.00 but it will never work out at that.

    Added to my cost is plan review and the cost of preparing plans which, when we’re talking such a small job, is huge. Then add $150.00 for plan approval and then let the local building official treat the project like a normal sprinkler job, making our guys wait on the job doing nothing for a day or two waiting for inspection, and the system that should have cost $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 is costing $4,000.00. At just $4,000.00 the sprinkler contractor isn’t making money either. For the effort required I can make a lot more doing a 100,000 sq. ft. commercial building.

    Then water distrubution gets in the act and requires a backflow preventor and meter adding another $1,000.00 in cost that shouldn’t be there. With the backflow preventor add another $100.00 or so a year for the annual testing then bring in an annual inspection program for yet another $100 or so a year and you got a monster nobody would want to buy.

    Given these cost burdens we’ve handed the realtors everything they need. Go ahead, you tell Mrs. Mary Jane Homeowner instead of going to dinner once a year with her husband she gets to pay Jimbob $100.00 a year to test her sprinkler system backflow preventor and another $100.00 to perform an inspection. I’ve spent my life in the industry and I wouldn’t like it.

    Here is how you fix it.

    1. City water departments provide the tap free. No extra expense to the homeowner for having a sprinkler system.

    2. Plans not required. Write an ordinance to the effect anybody can install sprinklers with a NICET III or IV certified technician writing a letter to the effect he inspected the installation and it meets NFPA #13D requirements. With a simple piece of graph paper, a pocket calculator and five minutes an experienced technician will be able to tell you if it will work or not. For an eight head job do we really need full cmputerized printouts?

    This would work pretty good, in 20 minutes I could tell the plumbers on the job where to place the heads, what size pipe to run to each one sprinkler (if you make everything 1 1/4″ you’ll do just fine 99% of the time) and once they are done I come back, take a quick look and sign it off.

    3. Don’t add hardships like backflow preventors, alarm systems or extra meters. Nobody is going to steal water from their sprinkler system.

    4. Don’t treat a single family dwelling or duplex the same way you would the local shopping mall because it isn’t the same thing.

  2. I might add that installers be trained and certified in the “art” of installing systems using CPVC. Manufacturers/distributors will provide the training at no cost.

  3. Pingback: Huntley Fire Sprinkler Requirement - Huntley Area News

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