MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fire officials hoping to make Minnesotans safer by requiring sprinklers in new homes were delivered a blow this week.
The Minnesota Supreme Court decided not to review a decision made by a lower court regarding those sprinklers being part of the Minnesota State Building Code.
It was the end of the line for fire officials who pushed for them. And it came as welcome news for builders who opposed the requirement.
“They’re inexpensive, they’re very effective,” St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said.
Zaccard has pushed for sprinklers in all new homes. The state adopted a plan last year to require them in homes bigger than 4,500-square feet. But the change to the state building code did not get very far. The Builders Association of the Twin Cities, or BATC, challenged the rule.
“We don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to build and sell the safest product they can for their customers,” Zaccard said.
He says sprinklers cost roughly 1 percent of the building cost. They go off one at a time when the ceiling temperature reaches a certain heat. He believes they are essential to save lives.
“Sometimes we can’t get there fast enough to save your life. You have to be able to get out on your own, and you can do that with residential sprinklers controlling the fire, preventing that flashover,” Zaccard said.
Shawn Nelson, former president of BATC, says the supreme court’s decision to not rule on the petition to require sprinklers is the outcome the association anticipated.
“This is the end of the road,” Nelson said. “The court has spoken here.”
He says affording Minnesotans the ability to buy a new home needs to be maintained.
“We’re really happy to have a victory for consumers and for housing affordability to really make it possible for Minnesota families to afford their next new home,” Nelson said.
Those involved with the fire service in Minnesota say while this may be the end of this fight, their work is far from done.
“We have the solution to saving lives from fires, thousands of lives a year,” Zaccard said. “We have the solution. We just have to have the willpower to do it.”
Homeowners do have the option to add sprinklers to any new construction. Nelson says BATC is committed to working on making improvements to existing homes by requiring interconnected smoke alarms in all homes.