A city of Sioux Falls task force will propose requiring more new apartment buildings to have fire sprinklers.
Members of the group are calling for the city to comply with a more recent state administrative fire rule.
The change, if eventually approved by the City Council, would require that all newly constructed multifamily buildings with six units or more have fire sprinklers.
The task force is slated to have one more meeting at the end of the month. It then will send its recommendation to the council’s Public Services Committee for review, perhaps in June. The City Council will see the recommendation for final approval.
State administrative fire rules are are based on the International Building Code, a design-and-construction document approved every three years intended to assure buildings are safe and accessible, providing adequate fire and smoke protection.
For 12 years, the city has not followed international requirements for sprinklers in all
apartments with three units or more. Instead, a local amendment requires automatic fire-extinguishing systems in multihousing structures that have more than two levels or more than 16 units.
Legally, the city must comply with state administrative fire code rulings or face problems with the city’s
insurance rating, which would be reflected in areas such as higher costs for homeowners and businesses to take out fire insurance, said Sioux Falls Fire Marshal Dean Lanier.
But while the state sets forth what must be done as far as fire codes are concerned, it does not dictate how it can be accomplished, Lanier said.
The International Building Code allows a number of sprinkler “trade-offs” as an economic incentive to install them. That includes more relaxed rules on building requirements that would no longer be necessary with the installation of sprinklers, such as more fire-resistant wall finishes, a heat detector in fire
alarm systems and draft stops in attics.
Some multihousing unit owners have expressed concerns that the the added expense to install will raise rent for tenants and cause problems if the sprinklers malfunction. Trade-offs would reduce construction costs so money could be spent on the sprinklers.