Members of the County Commission will vote at their October meeting on whether to require fire sprinklers in new residential construction.
The Codes & Zoning Committee voted Tuesday evening to send the 2018 ICC residential codes to the full Commission with sprinklers included. It will take a two-thirds vote of the Commission — or 13 if all 19 current commissioners are present (one seat is vacant) — for the sprinkler requirement to pass. Committee chairman Landon Gulley cast the lone vote against sending the recommendation to the Commission.
Representatives from the National Fire Sprinkler Association made a presentation on Sept. 22 to commissioners on sprinklers, showing a room with sprinklers and one without. Both were lit on fire, with the non-sprinkler room fully engulfed in around two minutes.
Dwight Jewell said the committee needed to allow the full Commission to weigh in on the matter and recommended leaving the sprinklers in the residential code.
Building Inspector Sam Edwards said that in meetings with other codes officials, that sprinklers were not common in other jurisdictions.
“The only county that was mentioned that did do it, it did not stop construction. Now construction was diminished because some of the builders did not continue building… Construction will slow down and some of the housing will get larger,” Edwards said.
Gulley said he had researched costs of sprinklers and found costs averaging around $2.50 per square foot, rather than estimates from the NFSA that were roughly half that amount.
“I have not been able to find a number under $2.50 yet. I’ve called Nashville and other cities,” Gulley said. “It’s an amazing option, but I would like to see it as an option the homeowner has.
“I can’t find a lot of places that do this. That’s my biggest concern.”
Local contractor Mike Dies argued against including the sprinkler requirement during public comment, saying, “We’ve got enough on us now.”
Dies also said wait times on construction would increase as contractors would have to wait to hire someone who does sprinklers, as most contractors do not do such work themselves currently. Those who
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do have backlogs as much as six weeks, Dies said, while adding that no customers to date had asked him to install a sprinkler system in a new home.
“It is something that saves lives, saves property; it increases property values,” Jewell countered. “One reason we have the hot real estate market we have here now is because we were strict on building codes and we build good houses in this county.
“This is going to be another feather in that cap, just like good schools, your good roads and everything else. It’s got to start somewhere.”
Commissioner Ken Buckmaster added that he had spoken with 49 owners of newer homes in his district and that only four opposed a sprinkler requirement. Buckmaster also said he had heard from officials in other counties who were watching what Trousdale County does with an eye toward similar moves in their own jurisdictions.
“I’ve been contacted by officials from every one of our surrounding counties, begging us to put this sprinkler ordinance in so they’ve got a leg to stand on,” Buckmaster said.
The Commission will take up the matter at its Oct. 26 meeting.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.