Sprinkler systems will be required in new Palatine homes

Over the objections of a residential construction trade association and others, Palatine will require automatic sprinkler systems for new single-family homes starting next year, under a revised ordinance that proponents say will improve safety if a fire starts.

Addressing the opponents, Palatine Fire Chief Scott Andersen said the sprinklers provide vital protection against the spread of flames beyond the point of origin. He said the sprinklers save lives and property.

"You can survive 150 degrees for quite some time," Andersen said. "You can sit in a sauna for an hour and you'll be fine. You cannot survive a thousand degrees. And if someone's in there, guess who's going in there to get them out? I don't care if it's a thousand degrees or 1,500 degrees at the floor, my guys are going in."

Palatine officials said the sprinklers are projected to add $3,500 to the cost of a typical single-family house in the village. That extra expense drew concern from Greater Chicago Homebuilders Association governmental affairs chief Paul Colgan.

"Fire sprinklers should be a choice of the homeowner," Colgan said. "Like we said earlier, multifamily, mid-rise, high-rise, yes, fire suppression systems, sprinkler systems have their place there. But in a single-family home, or in certain townhouse developments where there is good fire separation between the units, they're not needed."

Arlington Heights real estate consultant Steve McEwen said sales of new homes in Palatine could become more difficult due to the added costs.

Village council members voted 4-2 to make the sprinklers mandatory in new two-family buildings, townhouses and single-family homes beginning Jan 1. The ordinance revisions, recommended by the International Code Council, were first discussed at a May village council session.

Palatine councilmen Tim Millar and Scott Lamerand were the two "no" votes on the issue.

"These houses have gotten a lot safer," Millar said. "The codes have been much stricter."

Councilman Kollin Kozlowski, who voted in favor, countered that to "err on the side of life safety" outweighs the extra construction costs.

Mount Prospect has a similar single-family home sprinkler ordinance that became effective in April.

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