by State Rep. Bob Vogel
We recently received good news when the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with consumer freedom by repealing a requirement that fire sprinkler systems be installed in new homes of 4,500 square feet or larger.
The court ruling noted the building code mandate on new homes over 4,500 feet is “arbitrary” and was not the product of “scientific principles, approved tests and professional judgment.”
This mandate was not a product of the legislative process, rather a Department of Labor and Industry rule that became effective just last January. Because of the concerns echoed in the court’s ruling, I was the chief author of legislation this year to repeal it amid concerns from consumers, builders and others. My bill easily passed the House before a conference committee stripped it from an omnibus bill prior to final passage.
Either way, the desired result was achieved.
Sprinklers shall remain a valuable option for people to consider when building a home, and the court restored the decision back to the citizens where it belongs. It gives families both the right and responsibility to determine whether that accessory is necessary in their safety plans, or if alternate methods such as hard-wired smoke detectors and fire extinguishers will suffice.
When it comes to our families, it’s good for people to make positive choices during the homebuilding process. Instead of potentially seeing sprinklers as something being forced upon them and then looking for ways to circumvent a mandate, which may in the long run be a very good alternative for their family’s needs, customers now can look at them as a positive alternative.
It’s also important to realize that although a home of 4,500 square feet (including a basement, even it is unfinished) is a big home, it is not necessarily in the mansion category. A two-story home with 1,500 square feet on each level and basement gets you to that size. Another consideration is that often regulations have a way of getting expanded, so you could not help but wonder if 4,500 square feet would eventually trickle down to include smaller homes as well.
As a retired volunteer firefighter, I would highly recommend that anyone considering building a home talk with their builder about adding sprinklers as it could be one of the most valuable options you add. It is also good to see that citizens and the free market prevailed on this issue so a conversation on adding them can be held without the obstacle of a mandate to overcome.