Ill. village board rejects sprinkler code mandate

The vote rejected a portion of the model code proposed by the International Code Council and supported by the village's Building Code Review Board


By Deborah Donovan
The Chicago Daily Herald

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Requiring fire sprinklers in new single-family homes was unanimously rejected Monday night by the Arlington Heights Village Board.

Trustees did not see a good cost/benefit ratio with the sprinklers, Mayor Arlene Mulder said after the vote, and they did not think enough new houses will be built to make much difference in safety for firefighters or residents.

The vote rejected a portion of the model code proposed by the International Code Council and supported by the village's Building Code Review Board.

Fire Chief Glenn Ericksen and other fire department and union officials said sprinklers are particularly important for the safety of residents and firefighters because current construction methods and materials mean homes burn more quickly.

Communities that have adopted the requirement include Des Plaines, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Prospect Heights and Wheeling, said village officials.

All of the other Arlington Heights changes are stricter than the model code — specifically improving energy efficiency and noise reduction — said John Carrato, chairman of the building code review board.

"Everything that we have done, all of our amendments make this more restrictive than the ICC," Carrato said. "If we adopt a less restrictive requirement and God forbid have a fire that kills a fireman or part of a family, that's something we really have to think about."

The board, village officials and members of the audience discussed the issue for about two hours. No other provision in the code was debated Monday.

John Scaletta, a member of the village board who served on the building code review board, said the requirement would work against the village's desire to have more affordable housing.

If sprinklers are so critical to life safety they should be required in existing homes, too, said Trustee Thomas Glasgow.

Installing sprinklers would be much more expensive in existing homes, supporters said. The cost in new construction was debated, but speakers estimated it is between 90 cents and $4 per square foot. Also debated was the odds that sprinklers might malfunction and cause water damage.

Ericksen said he was just throwing out an estimate in response to trustee questions when he said five deaths in the last 10 years were caused by accidental residential fires. The village has 12-15 serious fires a year, he said.

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