A proposed ordinance to update Sussex County to the 2021 edition of the International Building Code and International Residential Building Code does not include residential fire sprinklers as suggested by the code.
At its April 5 meeting, Sussex County Council introduced the ordinance with that exemption included. Public hearings will be scheduled at a later date.
Andy Wright, chief of the county's building code department, said during an earlier discussion that the county was using 2012 regulations, three editions behind. However, he said, there are only a few minor changes. Developers have contacted him requesting the county adopt the updated code, he said.
Wright said county officials had the option to exempt residential sprinklers in 2012 and still retain that option.
He said local builders have told him that adding residential sprinklers to newly constructed houses would increase the cost of a house by between $7,500 and $10,000, depending on a home's water source – a private well or a commercial central water system.
Only two cities in Delaware require residential sprinklers for new home construction – Lewes and Newark.
“We need a lot more information. I can see a lot of issues with private wells and meeting the water flow requirements,” said Council President Mike Vincent.
Paul Eichler, chairman of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition, Delaware Volunteer Firefighters' Association Sprinkler Committee, has been on a campaign urging county officials to require residential sprinklers in unincorporated areas of the county. He said the requirement has been included in the International Residential Code since 2009.
“These systems are proven life savers and property protectors. The lives protected not only include the residents of Sussex County, but also the first responders from the fire, EMS and police agencies of Sussex County,” he said.
Another change is the required square footage for a habitable room, dropping from 120 square feet to 70 square feet.