, The Fire Sprinkler Debate: Controversy and Dissent in a Curious Place, Harrington Group IncIt seems pretty straightforward; fire sprinkler systems save lives and property, so we should all have them. And, in a way, it is that simple. The commercial real estate industry already has regulations in place with regards to fire safety and building codes. But, residential structures, particularly single-family homes, are a little more complicated.

With every incident and every study, the fire protection engineering industry learns valuable information on how to prevent and combat fires in the home. As a result, buildings inevitably grow safer over time. For many, the next step is obvious: require sprinkler systems in all residential structures as an additional safety measure. But, not everyone agrees, and these policies have become a subject of debate.

The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has reported on both sides of the debate. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) argues against sprinkler mandates, while Fire Team USA lobbies for sprinklers to be required. Here is a summary of their respective cases:

Fire sprinkler systems should not be mandatory in newly constructed, single-family homes.

The basic argument here is an economic one. The NAHB argues that single-family home sprinkler systems are simply not cost-effective. One of the main pillars of this standpoint is that homes have become fundamentally safer over the years, lessening the need for yet another costly safety measure.

The NAHB also points out that sprinkler mandates would only apply to newly constructed homes, which are already the safest when it comes to fire prevention. Because new homes are less at risk, the value added by sprinklers isn’t worth the imposed cost on new homeowners. They cite the fear that, in the worst-case scenario, mandates could discourage new construction.

These individuals also assert that the bulk of the attention should be paid to preventative programs and fire safety education.

 Fire sprinkler systems should be mandatory in newly constructed, single-family homes.

The fire protection industry, and specifically Fire Team USA, has something to say about the assertions of the NAHB.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, the industry points to the overall value of prevention as compared to loss of life and property. They point to the astronomical cost of large, destructive fires that could have been minimized by a functional sprinkler system. The initial investment, they say, is well worth the long-term advantages. Sprinkler companies have also been working to create lower-cost options that are still effective.

Most importantly, the fire safety industry is united in one profound truth; sprinklers save lives. The data backs up that statement, and for an industry whose primary job is to keep the public safe, there is no more critical bottom line.

This is just a surface-level introduction to the debate, which has taken on several complex arcs. For more details and insight into this aspect of fire protection, check out the NFSA summary.

What do you think about having fire sprinklers in our homes? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.