I got a note from Rick Pollitt the other day regarding a comment I made in my post on the Pittsville forum. Here’s the comment in question:
“I saw Rick’s answer on the sprinkler question as telling – it was “unfortunately” up to the individuals whether or not to install sprinklers in new single-family dwellings.”
And on Saturday Rick wrote me back. However, I don’t check that particular mailbox as often as I should and to be frank, the last few days have been a settling-in process for me in my new home – not to mention it’s baseball playoff season! So tonight I’ll allow his words to clear up any misconception I may have unwittingly led to.
Rick Pollitt wrote:
I wanted to drop you a note just to clear up a faulty impression I left with you (and probably others) at the Pittsville forum Thursday night in reference to in-home sprinkler systems. You wrote it was “telling” that I said “unfortunately” the requirement in Fruitland for sprinklers in single family homes was not adopted. My intent was to apply the term to the local fire company’s position which, of course, was in support of sprinklers in all residential structures. As a staff person, I was not asked for a formal position but in conversation with the members of the Planning Commission I came down on the side of those who preferred leaving it to the choice of the new home builder/occupant.
I’ve said in a number of forums that the older I get, the more libertarian I become in my views. I want no more government than is necessary but, being in the business, what government I do have I want to be efficient and productive. I mentioned in my reply that the reason that requirement was not adopted was due to the same philosophy that opposes mandatory motorcycle helmets, seat belts, etc. essentially saying that sprinklers in single family homes should be a matter of choice and not a government mandate. From a personal standpoint, that view more closely mirrors my own.
I do have a couple comments that I’d like to add however. Talking about the revenue cap in the way that Pollitt does would lead me to believe that many who have a libertarian bent question his stance regarding “no more government than necessary.” One comment on his literature reads that within the first year of a Pollitt administration, he will begin to “(p)repare a budget that provides the most bang for the buck within the limits of our funding resources while acknowledging that there will be serious needs under-funded until our community finds the will to fill them.” (emphasis mine.) I can’t say that this statement advocates less intrusive government as getting the additional funding resources almost always means John Q. Public has to dig deeper into his pockets.
However, regarding the sprinkler question itself I would agree with him. In my job I regularly come across the benefit of sprinklers in larger-scale construction. The 2003 International Building Code allows most building types extra area and/or stories if sprinklers are added. As an example, I’m project manager for a 30,000 s.f. condominium building that had its need for fire separation walls reduced from four to one (although each tenant unit still needs to be separated whether sprinklered or not.) Its next door neighbor being prepared for Phase 2 of the project now is able to have no such walls as it falls within the 21,000 s.f. allowable area (as opposed to 7,000 s.f. with no sprinklers.) The same holds true for commercial buildings as in more and more cases owners are opting to install or retrofit their buildings with sprinklers.
But single-family homes are a different animal entirely. Their smaller size makes a sprinkler system a larger portion of the construction cost and the cost to benefit ratio is more dubious. (This isn’t to say that other fire detection and prevention methods aren’t necessary – I regularly make sure my smoke detector is functional and have a small fire extinguisher in my kitchen.) But to mandate sprinklers in single-family construction is more of a “nanny state” than I prefer to see.
I do have to say that I appreciate that Rick reads my blog, obviously he finds it less cancerous than some others do.