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Mandatory Fire Sprinklers – Reigniting or Fizzling Out?

What could have been a 'burning' issue for the incoming director of the state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG) may be all but washed out. That's after a hearing Tuesday in Lansing before the director of Michigan's Bureau of Construction Codes, Irvin J. Poke. He heard comments from about three dozen people, most of whom were opposed to making fire sprinkler installation mandatory for new home construction in Michigan.

This hearing took place nearly one year to the day after the Michigan Building Code Review Committee voted 10-2 against mandating fire sprinklers. (The Mackinac Center reported on the issue in a July 2009 video.)

The mandatory fire sprinkler requirement was part of a larger body of revisions to the nation's building code model. The International Code Council meets yearly to discuss changes to the building codes, and makes revisions every three years. It is then up to each state to adopt or reject these revisions. So far, 23 other states have rejected a mandatory fire sprinkler provision in their building codes for new home construction.

A representative from the Council was on hand Tuesday, along with Ken Bensen, the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Michigan and Lee Schwartz, the executive vice president of governmental relations for the Michigan Association of Home Builders. Bensen and Schwartz have been outspoken critics of a fire sprinkler mandate for new home construction, saying that such a mandate would be too costly for builders and homeowners.

Here are comments from all three following the hearing:

Poke says he will make a recommendation to the DELEG director based on remarks from this hearing, as well as written testimony received by his office and input from Building Code Review Committee members. Poke tells the Mackinac Center his recommendation to the DELEG director will likely include keeping fire sprinkler installation voluntary, rather than making it mandatory.

A final decision from the DELEG director is not expected until late this summer or early fall.

Tomorrow (July 23) is the last day on the job for current DELEG Director Skip Pruss. On July 19, 2009, Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced that Pruss will retire and will be replaced by DELEG Deputy Director Andy Levin.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.