Monday, April 18, 2011

Are Building Codes Making Us Too Safe?

There's a debate raging in Pennsylvania about whether the state's building code has gone too far in the pursuit of safety.  Specifically, the legislature is arguing about a law that requires sprinkler systems in all newly built single-family homes.  Only California and Pennsylvania have such a measure.

On one side of the debate, public-safety advocates and firefighters argue that the sprinklers save lives and reduce property damage when fires spark to life.  Opponents don't dispute these benefits. They argue, instead, that the negatives outweigh the positives.  Sprinkler systems significantly increase building costs, inspection costs, & maintenance costs, and only generate a relatively small amount of added safety protection.

Before coming to a firm conclusion on the merits of the policy, I'd like to see more data on how much this costs on per-life-saved basis.  I'm also curious to see if the $5000 in added cost per home will do anything to constrain the ever-growing size of the American home.

Steve Clowney

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