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The Fight Over Fire Sprinklers in New Homes

About 3000 Americans die in house fires every year. Beginning in January 2011, a change to the International Residential Code (IRC) aims to reduce that number by making fire sprinklers mandatory in all new single-family residences. Sounds good, but home-building lobbies from Texas to Georgia have defied what they call an impractical, expensive mandate, convincing legislators to pass bills overriding the requirement.

“We’re not against residential fire sprinklers—as a voluntary measure,” says Steven Orlowski, program manager for construction, codes and standards at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “A building code provides the minimum balance between cost, safety and welfare. You could do everything to the nth degree and get 100 percent safety, but that’s not the purpose of the code.”

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