Sprinkler requirement in new Minn. homes rejected

Builders, real estate agents, affordable housing advocates argued requirement would be expensive; fire officials countered it could save lives

By Bob von Sternberg
The Star Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's firefighting establishment faced off Tuesday against the state's homebuilding industry at the State Capitol — and lost.

By a voice vote, members of the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee approved a bill that would prevent the state's building code or local political subdivisions from requiring that fire sprinklers be installed in all new homes built in the state.

Representatives of several organizations representing builders, real estate agents and affordable housing advocates argued that such a requirement would be prohibitively expensive. Fire officials countered that it could save lives — even though no such requirement is yet on the books.

"We're not preventing anyone from putting in sprinklers," said Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, the bill's sponsor. "My overall concern is the sheer cost of it," which, she said, could amount to thousands of dollars per house.

St. Louis Park Fire Chief Luke Stemmer, speaking for the state fire chiefs association, said the bill was a pre-emptive strike against a rule process "that is being circumvented. ... Please let the process work itself out."

The state's Department of Labor and Industry is considering the sprinkler requirement, proposed by an international building standards organization, a rulemaking process that will take several months.

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