Another cost for new homes, for better or worse

I just read in Fine Homebuilding that, effective 2011, all new homes must have a fire sprinkler system installed. The author dismisses concerns about cost, estimating that they’ll amount to at most 2% of total construction costs. Well that may be only a few thousand dollars in Oklahoma, but in Greenwich where everything is oversized including construction costs, I’d be surprised if it didn’t add a lot more than that. Maybe insignificant when estimating affordibility of a $10,000,000 mansion but more of an issue at the low end.

There’s no question that a sprinkler requirement will save a few lives – in Greenwich, maybe one every year? But like land use regulations and all building safety codes, there’s a price to pay. I’m not necessarily arguing against this regulation but I’ve never heard of a home buyer voluntarily ordering this equipment when building a house, so it sounds to me like one more instance of people who know better dictating to those who don’t. Keep that helmet on.


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9 responses to “Another cost for new homes, for better or worse

  1. Anonymous

    another victory for the insurance industry. they weren’t having much luck with small premium reductions; it’s so much better for their lobbyists to get the government to require it. same with 5 mile an hour bumpers. saves some money for those in accidents [and for their insurance companies] but costs every driver hundreds upfront plus reduced mileage every day due to the extra weight the cars all now carry.

  2. Tradervic

    We had to install a sprinkler system in Stratton, VT when we renovated a 4 story townhouse, and it is not only expensive, but unsightly. The least offensive (look wise) alternative are numerous recessed-light looking holes in the ceiling with caps that keep falling off because they are so loose fitting. (We are told they need to be loose fitting so that, when the water flows down, they will fall off.) At least there is a town wide benefit in Stratton’s case because if our townhouse burns down, it will take down numerous adjacent (and innocent) townhouses. However, this is not the case in most of Greenwich where lot sizes are larger. I agree with you that this idea is an unnecessary burden for most of Greenwich.

  3. Anonymous

    Legalities are annoying sources of forced costs

    But don’t know what is risk of fires in homes w/shoddily designed/installed wiring or mechanical systems….

    Presumably insurance actuaries have a view; and another interesting cost/tax offset is reduced need for $150K+/yr firefighters (w/lavish pensions) in areas with many new, safely-engineered homes and reduced fire risks (though a doubtful offset given usual absurd politics of unions)

    Just like many safety systems on cars are forced to address reality that perhaps 95+% of drivers are inept and unsafe, perhaps majority of houses have elevated fire risk b/c of poor engineering/build by low quality builders and moronic customers seeking lowest prices for largest houses on smallest lots….the usual trade-offs of quantity vs quality impacting neighbors’ risks

  4. J

    There is nothing better than coming home to a sprinkler head that starts to pour water into your home; maybe a foot of it; take that insurance co.

  5. Anonymous

    The Riverstone condos in Byram/Glenville may be the perfect example of where this direction should be focused. This is a development created for the profit of the investors in the project.
    Although there is a standard that the builder had to adhere to, with regard to burn times between each unit, I believe that a sprinkler system should have been installed in each unit.
    If there was a fire in one of the units, I believe that there is no way, a person on the top floor could escape without assistance from the fire service.
    Surely Chris, where profit is involved in a development, the developer should have the responsibility to protect the unit owners from any obvious dangers their neighbours might place them in.

    My condo block in Florida completed the installation of a central fire alarm and hallway sprinkler system, just as a unit owner decided, for reasons best known to himself, to start a fire in his unit. He changed his mind ‘mid fire’ and ran out of his unit, the carpet jammed his door, and the central sprinkler system ruined most of the other units, rendering the whole building uninhabitable for many months. Numerous code violations were discovered throughout the building, consequently, lengthening the inconvenience. Nightmare.
    Despite this, I believe that condo developments require special regulation, as in our case, retrospective installation of life safety measures.

    Should Greenwich consider the enforcement of retrospective installations for recently constructed condo developments and expand the program from there?
    Call it “stimulating the economy further”!

  6. Smoke detectors?

    With that drunk Fire Chief we had on duty who couldn’t get to the fire (Wojeick?), do we have faith in our fire dept? The town ended up hiring 5 more deputy chiefs so the drunk guy could have more help.
    Fire sprinklers. great, another win for the plumbers union.
    anybody ever see the BLACK WATER that comes out of a sprinkler that has laid dorment for 20 years. The slug is far worse to the building than any water that could put out the fire.
    Any body got a better IDEA? How about better smoke detectors. And granny, stop smoking in bed or falling asleep with the stove lit.

  7. Cotswood

    Totally off topic, but thought you’d love this new gestapo tool that will be deployed soon against taxpayers (and criminals, I guess…). See original press release below:

    Motorola and PIPS Technology Introduce Automatic License Plate Recognition with New Camera and Expansion Board Motorola and PIPS Technology Introduce Automatic License Plate Recognition with New Camera and Expansion Board more info…

    Motorola logo. (PRNewsFoto/Motorola) SCHAUMBURG, IL UNITED STATES 08/25/2004
    Motorola logo. (PRNewsFoto) SCHAUMBURG, IL UNITED STATES 06/23/2005

    Aug 17, 2009 08:00 ET
    Click this link to view linked Blogging Services

    Blog About This News Release
    Blog with WordPress


    Motorola and PIPS Technology Introduce Automatic License Plate Recognition with New Camera and Expansion Board

    – Low-profile camera integrates with light bars – Internal processor board fits into Motorola MW810 Mobile Workstation to save money and space

    LAS VEGAS, Aug. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — APCO 2009 (Booth 824) — Motorola, Inc. (NYSE:MOT) and PIPS Technology, a Federal Signal company (NYSE:FSS) , today announced an Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) solution featuring new low-profile digital Slate(TM) cameras and an ALPR expansion board that fits Motorola MW810 Mobile Workstations, which saves space and eliminates additional hardware costs.

    “Motorola’s license plate recognition solution provides law enforcement with seamless connectivity and access to real-time information using mission critical technology that is second nature,” said Rod Guy, Motorola director of Mobile Computing Operations. “Motorola and PIPS Technology developed a cost-effective and efficient ALPR solution that gives law enforcement an invaluable tool in combating auto theft and other crimes.”

    The enhanced complete Motorola ALPR solution includes the new Slate cameras, Motorola’s MW810 Mobile Workstation, the ALPR expansion board for the MW810, PAGIS in-vehicle software that interoperates with the cameras to capture and read license plates, and BOSS back-end software that aggregates information from multiple ALPR systems to enhance intelligence capabilities.

    “If ALPR is reading license plates, officers can concentrate on other tasks, which helps us protect the public,” said Sgt. Dan Gomez, Los Angeles Police Department, an early adopter of ALPR technology. “What’s great about the new system is its small footprint. With more and more devices installed in police cruisers, the trunk can get pretty packed. We also like the smaller cameras, which are not as obvious and work better when we go around corners.”

    The new compact Slate camera is less noticeable and does not interfere with a law enforcement vehicle’s light bar. The ALPR expansion board is installed into a new or existing MW810, eliminating hardware costs and space constraints associated with the need for a separate ALPR processing unit in a vehicle. The board also supports preprocessing, which optimizes system performance.

    “PIPS Technology is pleased to continue our partnership with Motorola in the delivery of license plate recognition solutions to the public safety community,” said Craig Cantrell, vice president and general manager of PIPS Technology, Inc. “The combination of our industry leading ALPR technology with the power of the Motorola MW810 processor provides the officer unmatched technology performance while significantly reducing the overall equipment deployed in the police vehicle. We believe this is a winning combination that will resonate with the police community.”

    Motorola’s ALPR mobile application helps enhance the productivity and effectiveness of officers by automatically capturing images of license plates within the camera’s view. The numbers are processed using an optical character recognition engine and are compared against an onboard violations data base or hot list. The system alerts an officer if there is a matching hit and provides vehicle information and other preemptive details for appropriate action.

    License plates can be automatically read and analyzed every two seconds, which means more than 5,000 plates can be checked in a typical shift. ALPR technology also helps law enforcement maximize revenue from the collection of unpaid parking tickets, licenses and permits as well as identifies stolen vehicles and those connected to criminal activities. The technology also helps to secure sensitive areas such as ports, schools and power plants.

    Motorola’s enhanced ALPR solution, expected to be available in the second half of 2009, is part of the MOTOA4(TM) mission critical portfolio of products that offer seamless connectivity between first responders.

    For multimedia assets from APCO, visit APCO 2009 Press Kit. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    About Motorola

    Motorola is known around the world for innovation in communications and is focused on advancing the way the world connects. From broadband communications infrastructure, enterprise mobility and public safety solutions to high-definition video and mobile devices, Motorola is leading the next wave of innovations that enable people, enterprises and governments to be more connected and more mobile. Motorola (NYSE:MOT) had sales of US $30.1 billion in 2008. For more information, please visit

    About Federal Signal Corporation’s Public Safety Systems Division

    For decades, Federal Signal (NYSE:FSS) has been helping law enforcement leaders serve and protect people, property and the environment. Total solutions from Federal Signal include license plate recognition systems, vehicular light and siren systems, interoperable communications systems and in-vehicle video and data systems. We deliver the most comprehensive public safety systems to help you protect your community–every day.

    Media Contacts:
    Steve Gorecki
    Motorola, Inc.
    +1 847-538-0368

    John Segvich
    Federal Signal
    +1 708-587-3486

    MOTOROLA and the Stylized M Logo are registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office. All other product or service names are the property of their respective owners. Motorola, Inc. 2009. All rights reserved.
    PRN Photo Desk,

    Source: Motorola, Inc.

    CONTACT: Steve Gorecki of Motorola, Inc., +1- 847-538-0368,; or John Segvich of Federal Signal Corporation,

    Web Site:

  8. marvin

    There are lots of people who are on the verge of losing their own homes because of the current economic crisis, but the bailout plan is only giving a little positive effect about it. But I’m still positive that in due time, the plan will eventually help these homeowners to save their houses from foreclosures.

  9. Flyover Girl

    Commenter J brings up a good point…sprinkler systems are more likely to go off by accident and cause thousands of dollars of damage, than they are to save people in a fire.

    And many homeowners do not realize that their homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover themselves against floods or water damage. The most typical homeowner’s insurance is the standard “fire policy.”

    Things like flood insurance and protection are offered as riders, and even then very limited to acts of God and not negligence. And remember, adjusters have the ability to define negligence broadly.

    I see a world of moldy plywood subfloors and broke mortgagees ahead.