Friday, August 31, 2012

Harwood Heights considers residential fire sprinklers

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Harwood Heights — Requiring residential sprinkler systems is under consideration in Harwood Heights.
Trustees have yet to decide whether to adopt 2009 international building codes or amend the section pertaining to residential fire suppression/sprinkler systems.
As written, the code requires such systems in new home construction.
Up for debate in Harwood Heights is whether the village should require the system as part of remodeling projects.
Options being discussed include mandating the system if the remodeling project covers more that 25 percent of the home’s area, to only if the project increased the square-footage of the existing building, to opting out all together due to concerns over government intrusion into private property matters.
Norridge approved the code in March without amendments, said Brian Gaseor, building commissioner.
The village had some new residential construction projects going on at the time, but because the paperwork was already submitted, the builders did not have to comply with the new regulations, he explained.
Since then, the village has had one inquiry about fire suppression systems, Gaseor added.
“We haven’t heard back,” he said, “but I can’t say for sure if that (requirement) had anything to do with it.
“It could just be the economy.”
The Norwood Park Fire Department, which serves Norridge, Harwood Heights and unincorporated Norwood Park, is working with the communities, Fire Lt. Dan Johnson said.
The 2009 recommendations by the International Code Council consolidate building standards.
“It makes everything equal,” Johnson said. “We used to have pages and pages of amendments to the code.”
By adopting the 2009 codes, villages can decrease the amount of amendments designers and builders have to follow, he explained.
“And part of 2009 code is mandatory residential sprinklers,” he added.
The International Code Council is a nonprofit organization that developed the nationwide standards through input from its various trade groups.
Peg Paul, communication manager with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, said many homeowners are confused about how the system works.
“Many people think sprinklers are a separate system,” she said. “They just attach to the water main coming into house.”
The main supplies water to the system through pipes that run from the basement to the ceiling on the first floor, Paul said.
For second-floor rooms, sprinklers are often installed in sidewalls to protect against heat in the summer and cold in the winter, due to a lack of attic insulation.
The biggest obstacle the coalition faces is correcting the assumption that if one sprinkler goes off, they all do.
“That’s not the case,” Paul explained. “A sprinkler will activate only once it senses enough heat.
“It will either put out the fire or keep it small. It’s like having a firefighter in your house 24 hours a day.”
Johnson said the Norwood Park Fire Department “very much” supports residential sprinklers.
“They serve a purpose,” he said. “They keep a fire at bay, and they lessen the amount of smoke and water damage.”
Gaseor estimated a fire suppression system could add $10,000-$15,000 to the cost of construction.
Johnson acknowledged the increased cost.
“But what’s the cost of a new home?” he noted

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