New national surveys show fire service and homebuilder appeal for incentives to boost fire sprinklers in new single-family developments.
Fifty-five percent of developers would be interested in building homes with fire sprinklers if they were offered incentives or trade ups; yet only 6 percent had ever been offered them, according to a recent national survey of homebuilders conducted by HanleyWood for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC.) The survey also found that only 9 percent of developers are aware that fire sprinkler incentives are available to them.
Trade ups are locally negotiated incentives that Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) offer to builders or developers in exchange for improving life safety by installing fire sprinklers. A companion fire service survey found that less than half of U.S. fire department personnel know of the incentives.
Ninety-five percent of fire department personnel say they support home fire sprinklers as a method to increase protection of new houses. Strong support for sprinklers notwithstanding, 92% of respondents work in jurisdictions that do not currently offer any incentives to encourage homebuilders or developers to install fire sprinklers when they build.
“These two surveys show there is interest from both developers and the fire service to pursue incentives,” said HFSC Board President Lorraine Carli. “With incentives, there is a great opportunity for the fire service to grow the use of home fire sprinklers in their communities. For developers, there are financial opportunities afforded by incentives. It’s a win-win.”
What are Incentives?
Trade ups or incentives are normally offered in communities that do not require fire sprinkler installation in new homes. Common incentives include those that reduce construction costs, such as permitting tee turnarounds, increasing grades and building setbacks; and those that increase builder profit, such as allowing additional units. Trade-ups can usually be offered with no changes to local ordinances.
Community Risk Reduction
Home fire sprinklers are an effective component of fire department community risk reduction (CRR) efforts. HFSC’s focus in 2018 underpins local CRR, helping the fire service understand the value of incentives in protecting new housing stock. The program arms them with free tools and resources created specifically to educate their stakeholders prior to construction of new-home developments.
HFSC’s new resources and strategies encourage the fire service and AHJs to meet with local planning and zoning boards to start developer incentives discussions. Currently, only 41 percent of fire departments participate in planning/zoning board meetings. Early participation by fire officials in the planning process will encourage more developers to take advantage incentives, resulting in more sprinklered developments.
“This program, which partners the fire service with builders or developers, has great potential to deploy a local plan that will help protect communities for decades,” Carli said. “A typical single-family development has around 50 homes, so it’s easy to see the life safety promise in this approach.”