During a well attended education session at NFPA's Conference & Expo, a panel of experts discussed the evolution of sprinkler costs highlighted in two groundbreaking reports from NFPA.
Leading the discussion was Liza Bowles with Newport Partners, which conducted the sprinkler research on behalf of the Fire Protection Research Foundation. Numerous comparisons were made between Newport's 2008 cost study and its latest released in 2013. For the latter, researchers sampled a larger pool of homes and communities where sprinkler ordinances are in place. "Since the first study, California and Maryland enacted a statewide ordinance, so we wanted to see how costs may have changed," said Bowles, president of Newport Partners.
One of the more important findings was the average of a sprinklered square foot, down from $1.81 in the 2008 study to $1.35 in the 2013 study. Maryland and California, noted Bowles, have experienced significantly lower costs since its mandates were put into effect.
Also sitting on the panel was Paul Emrath with the National Association of Home Builders, who praised the study for its comprehensive look at sprinkler costs, not merely installation pricing. He also noted the challenges of homebuidlers embracing sprinklers, underscoring that housing production is still at an historic low.
Bringing builders to the table has been an important component to California's adoption efforts and subsequent installation challenges, said California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover, who also sat on the panel.
Tony Fleming with Metro Fire Protection also joined the group. His company provides sprinkler design, installation, and inspection in six states and Washington, D.C., and has noticed that jurisdictional add-ons to NFPA 13D: Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, has been the biggest factor in driving up the costs. Other hidden costs have been application, permit, and review fees.
An audience member with the American Public Health Association noted that other costs should be considered when discussing sprinklers. He suggested time and lost wages that occur from fires. "We should be giving homebuilders the entire argument--not just information on injury prevention," he said.