Gurnee trustees indicate support for sprinkler requirements in new homes

  • Fred Friedl

    Fred Friedl

  • Kirk Morris

    Kirk Morris

Posted5/23/2012 3:37 PM

Gurnee trustees have informally agreed sprinkler systems should be required for new residential construction as part of an updated village building code, presumably ending a debate that started in April.

Fire Chief Fred Friedl and other proponents say the home sprinklers save lives and that it makes sense to update the village's building code to include them. Gurnee would mirror the requirements of the 2012 International Building Codes, which includes the sprinkler requirement for single- and two-family homes.


But some opponents have questioned whether sprinklers are needed throughout a home and voiced concern about the village creating significant costs to new-home purchasers. They also say nothing would prevent owners of new homes from buying sprinkler systems on their own.

"It comes down to government intrusion into our personal lives," Trustee Kirk Morris said at a meeting this week.

Trustees received more information about the sprinkler systems Monday night, but didn't vote on the matter. Mayor Kristina Kovarik took an informal poll of the trustees after the presentation, with four of the six in favor of the sprinkler requirement.

Friedl told the village board that more sophisticated electronics and a wider variety of fabrics used in furniture are combining to cause fires to burn more intensely, making the sprinklers more important. He was supported by firefighter/paramedic James Pelliterri, who said sprinklers provide more time for occupants to escape before being overcome by smoke.

"They save lives," Pelliterri said. "It's just that simple."

Gurnee officials received feedback at a previous meeting from the Illinois Association of Realtors, with local agents disputing the need for a sprinkler requirement. Gary Stittgen, a real-estate professional and Mainstreet Organization of Realtors board member, said a low-cost solution is having sprinklers installed over a home's furnace.

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Stittgen said full sprinkler installation can cost at least $10,000 depending on the square footage of a home.

"This should be simply a consumer choice issue that has worked well in the building industry," he said.

Gurnee's building code was last updated in 2003. The existing code has mandated sprinklers only in subdivisions where driveways accommodate just one vehicle.

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