Fire Sprinklers in Single Family, Two-Family Homes and Townhomes

For the next State Building Code that will become effective October 1, 2018, the state Codes & Standards Committee proposed including a mandate to install fire sprinklers in all new townhomes built under the IRC.
Recognizing that common sense sometimes does succeed, the committee did remove (again) the sprinkler mandate for 1&2 family homes, but Codes & Standards Committee in an attempt to give the fire sprinkler coalition “something” defaulted to requiring this new cost in townhome construction. Townhomes can be built under the same building code (International Residential Code, or IRC, as amended by CT) as 1&2 family homes.

However, in a major victory for common sense and housing affordability, the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee on May 22, 2018, unanimously rejected the townhome sprinkler mandate, stating that Codes & Standards does not have the legislative authority for such a requirement. The proposed Codes will be amended to remove the townhome sprinkler provision and make other unrelated technical changes and be sent back to Regs Review for final approval.

The arguments against this costly townhome mandate are the same as those made against the 1&2 family mandate. See our testimony before Codes & Standards on Jan 24, 2018. See also supplemental testimony we provided to Codes & Standards on Feb. 7, 2018, offering a better solution to residential fire issues (albeit not a code solution).

Principally, the cost is vastly too great for almost no life safety protection. Proponents cringe at this suggestion, but the fact is that the evidence does not support their claim that this requirement will save lives. Except for cases of arson or suspicious fires still under investigation, we cannot find, and the proponents have not offered, any credible statistics that people have died from fires in new townhomes (“new” meaning units constructed in the past 30+ years). The vast majority, if not all, fire deaths in 1&2 family and townhomes (again with the exception of arson or other suspicious causes) occur in much older construction that this mandate on new construction does not address.

To highlight how “off the rails” the sprinkler coalition’s passion for this mandate has made them, their representative at the final codes public hearing, in attempting to refute the HBRA’s opposition to sprinklers, stated that home remodelers want fires to occur so we can get more remodeling work.

Some history of the proposed mandate and our reasons for opposing a mandate are noted below:

The Legislature’s Public Safety Committee once again in 2016 (7th time over the past fifteen or more years) entertained a mandate to install fire sprinklers in 1&2 family homes. And, once again the HBRA defeated this highly expensive requirement. In 2016, a couple of twists on the mandate were tried by proponents. HB 5278 would require fire sprinklers in all new 2-family homes, while SB 238 would allow municipalities to vary our statewide uniform building code and adopt a local ordinance to require sprinklers in all new 1&2 family homes.

The Public Safety Committee leadership, Rep. Steve Dargan (D) and Sen. Tim Larson (D), proposed substitute language on SB 238, to require sprinklers in all new 2-family homes. They brought this revised bill forward for a vote, and even with their support, it was defeated on a 7-18 vote in committee (see vote tally here). This strong vote against a sprinkler mandate – in the Public Safety Committee no less – should send a strong signal to proponents that CT’s place – standing with 47 other states that have rejected the fire sprinkler mandate – is the correct choice for CT’s citizens.

Home Builders would be happy to construct and install a fire sprinkler system in a new home if requested to do so by their customer. However, the HBRA of CT opposes a mandatory requirement (sought by fire officials, sprinkler manufacturers and sprinkler installers) that all new homes include a fire sprinkler system. We greatly respect and honor the service that firefighters provide to protect our communities. But our opposition to a fire sprinkler mandate is about logic, reason and common sense.

Building Code History regarding sprinklers: The CT Code Amendment Subcommittee (CAS) voted 11-2 on October 13, 2010, to exclude the mandatory fire sprinkler section from the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC), which covers 1 & 2 family home construction. For the saga on how the mandate got into the 2009 IRC model code in the first place, i.e., how the vote was rigged. The 2009 IRC, as amended, is the current building code in CT up until Oct. 1, 2016. The CAS has also exempted the sprinkler mandate in the 2012 IRC, which is expected to be adopted in CT as of Oct. 1, 2016. These votes are an important common-sense victory for home builders and homeowners to keep fire sprinklers optional in new homes. See the minutes of the 2010 CAS meeting.

The issues surrounding the debate have not changed. Indeed, the decreasing fire deaths in homes over time and higher costs for sprinkler systems make our arguments against a mandate even more powerful.

For a 1 page summary of all the reasons to not support a mandate to install sprinklers, either by the building code or by legislation, see:

  • Talking Points Opposing HB 5278 and SB 238 (2016 Legislative session)

For a Point/Counterpoint that examines the sprinkler coalition’s points for a sprinkler mandate and the HBRA’s responses, see:

  • Fire Sprinkler Facts & Truth – a spreadsheet of sprinkler coalition claims vs truths
  • It’s More than Just Smoke Alarms – HBRA responds to Nat’l Fire Sprinklers Assoc’s despicable and hypocritical comments about home builders made at the 2016 public hearing.

To examine the motivation of the three sets of advocates surrounding this issue (i.e., the fire community, sprinkler manufacturers and installers, and home builders and realtors), as well as the proper role of legislators, see:

  • Fire Sprinklers in New Homes – the Significance of Perspective – article by Bill Ethier, CAE, HBRA of CT CEO

And, additional documents supporting our opposition to a fire sprinkler mandate:

  • New Data Available on Fire Sprinkler Mandates – NAHB Now (9-7-16)
  • 2013 Fire Engineering: the New Black – a fire battalion chief disputes claims made by fire officials about light frame construction
  • Sprinklers will at times malfunction, causing water damage without a fire, especially if not annually maintained (which homeowners will not do).
  • Codes and Standards Committee and its members are NOT liable for taking the sprinkler mandate out of the “model” code – refutes the sprinkler coalition’s attempt to scare Codes and Standards members using a liability angle.
  • HBRA’s Testimony Opposing HB 6777 in the 2015 session

  • Fire Sprinkler Working Group: Part of the CAS vote on Oct. 13, 2010, included establishing a Working Group to study sprinkler mandate implementation issues. Developer and home builder, Bob Fusari, Sr., represented the HBRA of CT on this sprinkler-proponent dominated group (just see the report for the member list). On 10-20-2011, a final draft of the Working Group report was released (click here); see also a corrected section m (click here). Comments from Working Group members were requested by Oct. 29, 2011 (see HBRA of CT’s comments on the final draft report).
  • HBRACT’s Statement Opposing the Fire Sprinkler Mandate in the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) – made to the state’s Code Amendment Subcommittee, of the Codes and Standards Committee (September 8, 2010) (this statement references many of the documents linked below).
  • Facts About Fire Sprinklers (NAHB)
  • Smoke Alarms Work – brochure (NAHB); Smoke Alarms Work – website (NAHB)
  • CT Attorney General’s Opinion 1992-023: State Fire Safety Code and State Building Code preempt the field and municipalities do not have the authority to require fire sprinklers


In September 2008, Final Action was taken on Proposals for the 2009 I-Codes, the model building codes that CT adopts with amendments. There were many proposed changes of concern to the members of NAHB, most important proposals to mandate fire sprinklers in all one- & two-family homes and townhouses. Learn here why the ICC process and vote was a sham.

NAHB’s Appeal of ICC’s Process of Adopting Mandatory Fire Sprinklers in 1&2 Family Homes
2009 IRC: Hijacking the Code Development Process to Create the Best Code Money Can Buy

Note: NAHB’s Appeal was summarily denied in a 1 page statement by ICC’s Board of Appeals

Fire code officials from across the country who are ICC voting members attended the ICC hearings where their votes decided the matter. To sway the vote against builders and homebuyers, sprinkler advocates recruited a large number of fire officials to attend, directing them to vote in favor of mandatory requirements regardless of any concern raised. In 2007’s concentrated effort, the sprinkler advocates were unable to meet the required two-thirds majority to overturn the committee’s action, but they achieved success in 2008 and a mandatory requirement to install fire sprinklers in all new homes, single-family included, is contained in the 2009 International Residential Code. The CT Codes & Standards Committee has twice removed the mandate from the IRC before adopting this “model” code in CT. As of Jan, 2013 – 40 states have removed the mandate; only 2 (CA and MD) have approved it, and MD allows counties to remove it … and many have.

While the ICC Hearings were a sham due to the sprinkler advocates (primarily sprinkler manufacturers who stand to make $3 billion on a nationwide mandate), the CT Codes & Standards Committee has the authority to adopt exemptions from the ICC Codes. We strongly urge them to continue to exempt out the mandatory sprinkler requirement.

The Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut is bringing green residential construction to the mainstream by promoting the NGBS (National Green Building Standard, ICC 700-2012), the first and only ANSI-certified, green building standard in the nation and the Home Innovation Research Labs’ National Green Building Certification ProgramTM as the certification agent.

What is a green home? Green homes incorporate environmental considerations and resource efficiency into every step of the building and development process to minimize environmental impact.

Through Our National Partners, The HBRA Of CT Offers The Following Resources For Anyone Interested In Green Homes:
  • A Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation from NAHB that enables housing industry professionals to gain and market green experience.
  • Promoting the use of the National Green Building Standard
  • Promoting Home Innovation Research Labs’ nationally recognized Green Certification Program
  • Information for members and the public about Connecticut’s Green Building or Energy Efficiency Statutes and Code.

National Green Building Standard (NGBS)

  • ASHRAE Joins NAHB and ICC to Develop 2015 NGBS Version – ASHRAE has joined NAHB and ICC to serve as a co-sponsor of the 2015 version of the ICC/ASHRAE 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS). Home Innovation Research Labs, as secretariat, for the NGBS welcomes ASHRAE’s sponsorship and participation in updating the NGBS to the 2015. This announcement strengthens NGBS’ position as the leading consensus standard in the industry. Learn more here. The 2015 NGBS Development process is currently underway. Visit
  • The original ICC 700-2008 NGBS was replaced in 2013 by the next generation standard, ICC 700-2012. Many thanks to Peter Fusaro, Preferred Builders, Riverside, CT, for serving on the NGBS Water Efficiency task group, one of seven groups that worked to update the standard to the 2012 version. Pete was elected as the HBRA of CT’s First Vice Chairman & Vice President by its Board of Directors on 9-10-14.
  • The rigorous ICC-700 National Green Building Standard helps you demonstrate your green homes and products to environmentally conscious consumers.
  • Why Look for the NGBS Green Certified Mark? – Cindy Wasser, Home Innovation Research Labs.
  • NGBS Overview – In 2008, the National Green Building Standard (ICC 700-2008) was the first residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval. ANSI approval is critically important approval signifying that the NGBS was developed by a fair and balanced process with all stakeholders participating. ANSI approval has not been granted to date to any other green rating system, including LEED. See the comparison to LEED-H below.
  • The four threshold levels of the NGBS – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald – allow builders to achieve entry-level green building or the highest level of sustainable “green” building incorporating energy savings of 60% or more. Single-family & multi-family homes, residential remodeling projects, and site developments are all covered in the Standard. The standard covers the following seven areas: lot design and preparation; resource efficiency; energy efficiency; water efficiency; indoor environmental quality and comfort; operation, maintenance, and homeowner education; and global impact. Note: the predecessor voluntary Green Building “Guidelines” were phased out in late 2010, entirely replaced with the National Green Building Standard.
  • See what cities and states have done to incentivize use of the NGBS (9-2011).
  • NGBS Green Certified Products
  • Purchase the National Green Building StandardTM (NGBS) by clicking on the image below. At the BuilderBooks site, scroll down or click on Codes & Regulations and follow the links to purchase:

NGBS Comparison To LEED:

As noted above, the NGBS was the first residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval. ANSI’s approval is critically important to signify that the NGBS was developed by a fair and balanced process with all stakeholders participating. ANSI approval has not been granted to date to any other green rating system, including LEED.

  • 6 Reasons to Choose NGBS over LEED
  • Green Home Rating Systems Comparison– 22 pg report from 2008 comparing NGBS to LEED-H
  • Critique of the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Rating System – the LEED rating system has not been approved as a standard by any objective, standards development organization (9-2008)
  • US Green Building Council responds to the critique – USGBC is the private group that created the LEED rating system (9-2008)
  • Problems with LEED Standards in City and State Building Codes (Nov. 2008, from ICSC)

Home Innovation Research Lab (HIL) Certification Program

In late September 2008, the HBRA of CT green homes program was one of the first builders associations in the nation to formally affiliate with Home Innovation Lab’s National Green Building Certification Program.

  • Home Innovation Research Labs’ certification programs enable builders and consumers in Connecticut to assure their homes are truly green.
  • The certification program includes an online Green Scoring Tool that allows builders and consumers to gauge how green their projects will be (you can also download at the scoring tool site an Excel spreadsheet to score your homes offline).
  • Verifier training and accreditation is central to the program to ensure that certification is accurate, consistent, neutral, and technically rigorous. Interested in finding or becoming a 3rd party NGBS verifier, click here.
  • Find Your Green Home
  • Builder Marketing Materials

CT’s Green Building/Energy Efficiency Code

See our Green Building Codes & Standards page for information on CT’s green building code statute, plus the so-called “30% Solution” and more.

Other Green & Energy Efficiency Resources

Comprehensive List of Incentives & Policies for Renewables & Efficiency by State (from NC State University)

CL&P Home Energy Solutions

Energy Efficiency & Conservation Programs – An exhaustive report from the State legislature’s Program Review & Investigations Committee on the state’s and utilities’ programs related to energy efficiency and conservation (9-25-2008)

Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA)

Energize Connecticut