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Minn. delays adoption of home sprinkler code

By Brad Swenson
The Bemidji Pioneer

MINNEAPOLIS — Rules to mandate automatic fire sprinklers in new homes constructed after Jan. 1, 2011, will be delayed, the state Department of Labor and Industry says.

In a decision announced Monday in a letter to code officials, design professionals and contractors, the state agency cited four criteria in its decision not to move forward with the adoption of the 2009 building code recommendations that include the mandatory sprinkler provision.

“Given the drastic slowdown of the construction economy, we feel it is not the appropriate time to be updating regulations,” Steve Hernick, state building official, and Jerry Rosendahl, state fire marshal, said in the Department of Labor and Industry letter.

The International Code Council voted to add the provision to its International Residential Code during its meeting last fall in Minneapolis. The IRC, which is updated every three years, is basis of the Minnesota Building Code.

Labor and Industry Commissioner Steve Sviggum held a town meeting in December at Bemidji to gain input on the provision, and had planned to appoint an advisory council to formally begin a public hearing process on the new code when it was to be published in March.

“We appreciate that government understands the significant burden adopting a new building code would place on both homeowners and builders at this time,” Monte Mraz, Builders Association of Minnesota president said Tuesday in response to the memo.

Minnesota will forgo adopting the 2009 version of the International Code Council residential and fire code and instead wait to review the 2012 version, when available, he said.

“We are confident that the existing residential building code will continue to protect homeowners.,” Mraz said. “What we have now works; there will be no harm to citizens by the delay.”

In July 2007, Minnesota adopted the 2006 International Residential Code with a number of amendments. As an example, “BAM introduced requirements to the building code that address best building practices to reduce water intrusion,” said Mraz.

Minnesota also recently adopted a strict residential energy code to be implemented this summer. The new energy code includes provisions for reducing moisture-related problems in new residential construction and remodeling.

Mraz added, “Minnesota is known as a national leader in energy efficient construction for good reason. We build the most efficient homes in the country and have the data to prove it. The next version of the energy code will keep us on this path,” he said.

If Minnesota were to adopt the 2009 version of the IRC without amendments, every new construction permit pulled including single-family homes, would require fire sprinklers, Mraz said. By deciding to forgo adoption of the 2009 codes, the fire sprinkler mandate for all single-family homes will not go into effect for quite some time, if at all.

Reasons DLI cited for issuing the delay include;

  • The availability of volunteers for technical advisory committees, given cutbacks in code jurisdictions, among design professionals and product suppliers.
  • The staff time involved by state agencies for both the committee work and the rules process under the Administrative Procedures Act.
  • The cost of code books and reference materials for townships, cities, counties, state agency offices, design professionals and other industry members.
  • The cost of training for builders, designers, code officials and other industry members and the focus of the training on changes rather than other critical concepts.

“Based on the above criteria, we will not be moving forward with the adoption of the 2009 IRC, IBC or IFC and will strive to have our advisory committees and the state fire chief’s code committee ready to review the 2012 editions of these codes,” Hernick and Rosendahl wrote.

Republished with the permission of The Bemidji Pioneer