Las Vegas Sun

March 31, 2015

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Henderson to require fire sprinklers in new houses

After about an hour of discussion Tuesday, the Henderson City Council unanimously passed a provision in its residential code that will require all new homes to be built with fire sprinkler systems.

“If there’s a notion that we don’t have a problem with fire in Henderson, that’s simply not the case,” said Fire Chief Douglas Stevens during a presentation to the council. Within the last five years, he said, three Henderson residents have died in home fires, and in the past year, 81 people have been hospitalized at UMC for burns.

By installing sprinkler systems in new homes, Stevens said, “we can prevent people from being burned alive or burned to death.”

The sprinkler systems put water onto a fire 15 to 90 seconds after a fire starts, Stevens said. Firefighters usually get water onto a fire within 10 minutes.

“We will never beat 15 to 90 seconds, no matter what we do,” Stevens said.

Henderson is the first municipality in the Las Vegas Valley to require residential fire sprinklers, according to Michael Bouse, director of the city’s building department.

The code is not retroactive, meaning it does not apply to existing homes.

The cost of putting a sprinkler system in a home is about $5,000, Bouse said. Typically, insurance companies offer lower rates — up 12 percent lower — to people with the systems in their homes, he said.

During the meeting, home builders expressed reservations about the provision, saying the city should look further into the sprinkler system as an option for homeowners to consider not a requirement for builders.

Councilwoman Debra March said she wanted to look at options before voting on the provision and favored a continuance to a later date. After hearing the rest of the council voice their support for the item to pass immediately, however, she voted in favor of the item.

Councilwoman Kathleen Boutin said she wanted to vote for the provision Tuesday night and not continue it to a future meeting because the city “probably should have implemented this a long time ago.”

“We’re dealing with damages on a daily basis,” Boutin said.

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  1. I would think we should follow the money.

  2. I work in the homebuilding industry (when there's work to do), In Bakersfield and Kern County, California the rules for sprinklers go into effect on Jan 1. One builder I work for is working to get several permits in before the deadline to avoid the cost. If you take out the permit before Jan. 1, the rules will not apply. He is building them on spec (no buyer's contract) in order to keep the price down. I talked to an engineer who says it's in the new federal Uniform Building Code, so it is going to happen regardless of what city or county you are in, Within a couple years, all new construction will require sprinklers. It will add at least $10,000 - $15,000 to the cost of a new house. Not sure where the $5,000 number comes from. House sales are already bad, this will make it worse for buyers, at least in the beginning.

  3. citizen. I'm using numbers given to me by a California builder for homes in California. Maybe it's more expensive here, maybe he "inflated" his numbers. I'm in no way saying they shouldn't have sprinklers, just reporting information given to me by a builder and an engineer. It will be the industry standard in a few years, that's not a complaint, that's just a fact. I do know that contractors in Las Vegas have shaved their costs and margins as much as possible in order to compete with everyone low-balling the bids just to get the work. (I worked in LV for 4 years). I also agree on the additional jobs created info, but how many jobs are created when there is no business. A lot of builders will demand cost cuts elsewhere (some will downgrade to vinyl flooring and formica countertops, etc.). One could equate this law to when air bags were first required in cars, much of the "cost issues" were tossed out as reasons not to do it. Now it's part of the cost of doing business. Same will happen with fire sprinklers.
    Regarding spending on countertops or other costly items, again, I am with you, I know someone who didn't want to spend $4,000 extra to get a garage 2 feet longer on their new house so their truck would fit inside because of the cost, then they spent $50,000+ on a pool they never use. They park the truck outside, It's been broken into twice (in a "good" neighborhood).
    I guess what I am saying is that this is not a "Henderson" issue alone, It's nationwide and will be universally required everywhere. Time to buy stock in companies that make the components for fire sprinklers.