Fire leaders want to see state sprinkler mandate passed

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - A mandate in the state's building code for sprinklers in new homes is at a stand still.

The state's Building Code Council spent hours debating the code adoption two weeks ago, but with no movement or motion to approve. It means South Carolina remains operating under a 2006 building code.

The 2012 code would include the sprinkler mandate, the biggest issue for the Homebuilders Association, according to their Chairman of Codes Council Andy Barber.

"Our biggest opposition isn't primarily the costs. It's just the action of the mandate. Our fear is that due to costs, people who can afford moderate income housing will be priced out of the market," Barber said.

But others like Senator Phil Leventis, (D) Sumter, say it is about money for the Homebuilders Association.

"I think it's the worst case scenario to let people with profit motives determine health and safety issues. It's just not a good formula for the health and safety of our public," Leventis said.

Charleston Chief Building Official Tom Scholtens says the price of the sprinkler installation is averaging out at $1.65 a square foot.

Scholtens says if the BCC doesn't adopt the 2012 code, the state and city could see an increase in insurance rates, specifically flood insurance.

"By enforcing a high quality code, we end up saving the citizens of Charleston millions of dollars in their flood insurance premiums. That's spread over 20,000 policies."

The Homebuilders Association does have support from Governor Nikki Haley, whose spokesman said the mandate is burdensome to the state's small businesses.

"She didn't support the mandate... as a legislator, and doesn't support it as governor. We can protect our firefighters without savaging our business people," Gov. Haley's spokesman Rob Godfrey said.

Charleston's fire marshal, Mike Julazadeh says the mandate would decrease the risks of injury and death for firefighters and hopes to see it passed.

"We see this as another tool in the toolbox, as another safety tool that can help protect the public, protect firefighters, reduce property damage and overall have a positive impact on the environment and the community," Julazadeh said.

The BCC is expected to vote again in August. If they don't adopt the 2012 code, the state will continue using the 2006 code.

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