Proposed legislation raises housing costs

By Karen Nakamura Posted in: BIARemodel

In 2012, BIA was instrumental in passing Act 83, which prohibits counties from mandating installation or retrofitting of automatic fire sprinklers in (1) new or existing one (or two) family residential dwellings; and (2) non-residential agricultural and aquaculture buildings and structures located outside the urban area — provided that this does not apply to new homes that require a variance from access road or fire fighting water supply requirements. Act 83 sunsets on June 30, 2017.

Only Maryland and California require fire sprinklers in new home construction. All other states have prohibited the requirement at the state level or in their new building codes. (NAHB) H.B. 1630 and S.B. 2089 were just introduced (this week) as part of the State Fire Council’s (SFC) legislative package and propose to repeal Act 83. They argue that fire sprinklers save lives, and that the counties should decide. BIA has never opposed fire sprinklers. BIA strongly supports the rights of owners to voluntary installation. In a 2012 informational briefing at the state Capitol, the chief proponent for the SFC admitted that when he renovated his home five years prior, he did not install fire sprinklers because of the cost. Why, then, are they proposing to require the rest of us to do so?

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Let’s look at the facts:

• Almost all house fires occur in older homes, not newer construction. We requested data from the HFD on house fires between 2005 and 2012, including the age of the homes. However, no data is kept on the age of the home that sustained fire damage. 80 percent of homes on Oahu are older than 15 years old.

• The data provided by Maui County, however, showed that between 2005 and 2012, 173 residential fires were reported. Of those, 13 homes were built in 2000 or later, totaling $879,050 in property damage out of a total of $21,636,276. The remaining homes were built between 1935 and 1999.

• While new homes do become old, new homes are built to meet today’s fire codes with materials that meet fire resistant Federal standards.

• Residential fires have been declining over the years.

• According to a report by the Investigative Committee on Fire Sprinkler Implementation, which BIA participated in, it would cost between $18,092 and $23,245 to install fire sprinklers in an average 1,500 square foot home in Honolulu, $17,298 to $29,748 in Maui County, $19,618 to $25,580 in Hawaii County, and $24,253 to $42,230 in Kauai County. These costs consider a tank and pump option, and upgrading your meter to accommodate the sprinkler system, which must be hooked up to the board of water supply.

Governor Abercrombie signed Act 83 into law. The cost of installing fire sprinklers raises the cost of a new home. Call your Senator and Representative and ask them to leave Act 83 alone — the decision to install fire sprinklers should be left to the homeowner.

For more information, contact Karen Nakamura at ktn@biahawaii.org or call her direct line at 629-7502.

Karen Nakamura is CEO of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.