In a Collegeville Trappe Municipal Authority meeting last week, it was announced that the mandatory requirement that all newly constructed residential homes be equipped with a fire suppression sprinkler system has been repealed.
As Tom Corbett’s first bill as Pennsylvania’s governor, the repeal was the result much debate from both sides.
Earlier in the year, state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming County, introduced House Bill 377, which would repeal the mandate. The House approved the bill March 7 with a vote of 154-39. The Senate’s Labor and Industry Committee approved the legislation April 6, and the bill was signed on April 25.
Proponents say sprinklers save lives by extinguishing fires before firefighters can get to the scene. Opponents, led by the Pennsylvania Builders Association, say it would drive up housing prices unnecessarily.
The estimated sprinkler cost for a 2,000-square-foot house is about $5,000, not including the design work and backup pumps. This price is higher in more rural areas that do not use public water supplies.
Trappe Borough Councilman Paul Edwards said this about the repealed mandate, “As a building inspector, I feel that the current code regulations for newly constructed homes are adequate and make our homes safe. The sprinkler ordinance put an unnecessary financial burden on the homebuyer and builder."
There also will be a cost savings to the residents who would have had to pay for annual testing and inspection of the piping systems.
“This will not affect the operation of our water and sewer department or costs to the rate payers,” he added.
Corbett called it a "common sense" measure that will help keep new home prices within the reach of Pennsylvania's working families.
"Whether or not new homes are equipped with sprinklers should be a decision left to individual consumers and not the government," Corbett said. "While there are arguments on both sides of this issue, I believe the sprinkler mandate is wrong-headed, and I'm glad the General Assembly sent this bill to my desk."
Builders must still offer buyers the option of installing an automatic fire sprinkler system, and provide buyers with information about the costs and benefits.