Homebuilder Success Stories

Builder working on rafters

Developers and builders in Marietta, Georgia, are benefiting from trade-ups by installing automatic fire sprinklers in entire developments. During the planning process, city managers and the fire marshal agreed that because all the homes in the developments would be protected with fire sprinklers, they could be built closer together and closer to the property lines, increasing the number of homes in each development.

Alden Spencer of Georgia-based Affordable Fire Protection said he has worked on these types of projects over the last few years with Torey Homes and Williamscraft Builders. “We are getting ready to start a new development working with McKenzie-Perry Homes,” he said. “It really has been a good experience for builders and homebuyers because they get the benefits of the trade-up and build safer homes for their customers,” Spencer said.

Homebuyers seem to like the option, according to Janie Head, director of operations at Williamscraft Builders, which builds between 300 and 350 homes a year in the Atlanta area. “We’ve had a lot of success,” Head said. Sales professionals at her firm had some qualms at first, she admitted. “We thought what would be detrimental would be the cost, but actual marketing experience proved otherwise,” Head said. “People feel real secure and it helps their insurance.”

More than 70 upscale homes on Boblo Island, which lies on the Detroit River between Ontario and Michigan, would still be nothing more than blueprints unless home fire sprinklers were part of the design, according to Dennis Cressman of Home-Safe Fire Protection of Windsor, Ontario.

As many as 400 homes in the $1 million to $2 million price range could eventually be built on the island, Cressman said. “None of these houses could have been built without home fire sprinklers because the island is not easily accessible for firefighters,” he said.

A 24-home Windsor, Ontario, subdivision also owes its existence to fire sprinklers. Without the installation of sprinklers, building permits would have been denied because the area was not readily accessible to the local fire department, he said.

“These are the things that are going to make fire sprinkler installations work for these builders, if they can increase their profits, their bottom line,” says Cressman. “We put sprinklers in six houses in Ajax, Ontario,” he recalled. Putting in those sprinklers meant six extra houses built and sold. “You can imagine the profit,” he said.

Some builders are impressed by the safety factor as well, said Dennis Cressman of Home-Safe Fire Protection of Windsor, Ontario. One of Home-Safe’s earliest customers was a builder who decided on his own to install sprinklers in 168 homes “because he wanted to protect his customers.”

Protection can be a selling point, according to Brian Drake of Victaulic, a Canadian manufacturer. “It protects what they build,” he said. “It’s a unique life-safety feature not unlike upgrading with a security system.” Trade-ups increase fire safety, control municipal operating expenses and lower construction costs.

According to Gary Keith, former HFSC Chair, the idea of fire sprinkler trade-ups is simple. “Each fire sprinkler is activated by heat. In fact, 90 percent of all home fires are contained by one sprinkler. Often, fire sprinklers extinguish the fire before the fire department arrives on the scene. As a result, there is less likelihood of a major fire requiring heavy firefighting equipment, which can affect the rules for street design,” he said.

“When homes in a residential development are sprinklered, street width can be reduced, dead-end streets may be increased, tee turnarounds can be permitted and steeper street grades and building locations further from paved fire vehicle access may be permitted,” Keith said.

“Fire sprinkler protection in all new construction is a win-win decision,” Keith said. “The community has additional fire protection without higher taxes or increased insurance rates. The developer can reduce land development costs. The builder can reduce construction costs. Most important, communities with fully sprinklered developments should see a decrease in fire death rates and property loss.”

by Eric T. McMullen

Deputy Fire Marshal, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue

As a new construction Deputy Fire Marshal with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue in Oregon, I have been involved in many projects that included offering fire sprinklers as a trade-up for various development difficulties. Although we could share many success stories with you, I would like to focus on one particular case.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue is a large fire protection district that serves the cities of Beaverton, Durham, King City, Sherwood, Rivergrove, Tigard, Tualatin, Wilsonville, and portions of Hillsboro and unincorporated areas in Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah Counties. In addition, the fire district has contracted to provide fire and medical services to the cities of West Linn and Oregon City.

During the planning process of a large subdivision called Erickson Heights, in the city of Tigard, we discovered several streets that would have grades exceeding our maximum standards. Through cooperation with the Tigard Building Department and our office, home fire sprinklers were offered as a trade-up and accepted by the developer. I provided the developer with a list of the specific homes to be sprinklered due to excessive grade and the project proceeded. Not long after construction of the homes began, to my surprise, the developer contacted us and indicated that they had decided to install fire sprinklers in all of the homes in the subdivision.

Subsequently, during construction, one of the homes experienced a fire in a garage. Luckily,  the door from the garage to the living space of the home had been left open. Although the home was not finished, the fire sprinkler installation had been completed and a single sprinkler activated and the fire was extinguished prior to the arrival of our fire crews.

by Erin Norris – Oct. 30, 2008 02:26 PM

The Arizona Republic

SCOTTSDALE – A house fire in the Troon North neighborhood was extinguished quickly Thursday with the help of a residential sprinkler system and the swift response of firefighters, officials said.

Firefighters arrived at the home in the 29000 block of North 108th Street in four minutes after receiving a 9-1-1 call from an alarm monitoring service, Scottsdale fire spokeswoman Tiffani Nichols said.

The home was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no injuries have been reported, Nichols said.

A fire investigator was working to determine the cause and the extent of the damage, she said.

Single-family homes built in Scottsdale after Jan 1, 1986 are required by city law to be outfitted with a fire sprinkler system.

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