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New Rule Requires Fire Sprinklers In Large Houses

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - New building codes in Minnesota will require sprinklers in homes over 4.500 square feet.

It applies only to new home construction.

Firefighters say sprinklers are 96 percent effective in confining or extinguishing fires.

Fire sprinklers have been required in businesses and schools for decades.

"We have virtually zero loss of human life in buildings that are equipped with working sprinklers and a working smoke alarm, "said Eden Prairie Fire Chief George Esbensen.

And now they'll be required in some new homes too.

"Homes over 4,500 square feet will have this little device," Esbensen said. "It's 1.35 cents a square foot, about one percent of the cost of a new home."

St. Paul firefighters used this demo to drive their point home that sprinklers save lives.

One room has fire sprinklers, the other doesn't. The room without them is set on fire first.

It takes four minutes for a flashover to occur, temperatures reach 2,000 degrees. Thick, black smoke can keep anyone from getting out alive.

The St. Paul Fire Department has so much confidence in sprinklers that its chief sits inside the room equipped with sprinklers while it is set on fire.

At 135 degrees, or 1 minute and 15 seconds into the fire, sprinklers come on and put the flames out.

But not everyone believes new homes need them.

"This is really going to impact people's ability to buy the homes of their dreams," said Shawn Nelson, president of the Builder Association of the Twin Cities.

Nelson says the extra money to install sprinklers will slow up home construction and keep some from building.

"For every thousand dollars you raise the price of a home in the Twin Cities market, 2,000 families can't afford that home," Nelson said.

Homes that have sprinklers typically get a 10 percent discount on homeowners insurance.

The new codes begin Jan. 1.

Officials say they want to see how this goes before they'll consider sprinkler requirements in smaller homes.

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