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Wheaton Could Require Fire Sprinkler Systems in New Homes Under Proposed Code Changes

Councilman John K. Rutledge discussed proposed building code changes. Credit: City of Wheaton Planning Commission video
Councilman John K. Rutledge discussed proposed building code changes. Credit: City of Wheaton Planning Commission video
A requirement for fire sprinkler systems in all new single family homes could be adopted for Wheaton residents if the city moves forward with a proposed update to its building codes, according to discussion at a Monday Wheaton City Council planning session. 

Wheaton's codes have not been updated since 2003 and the city is looking to bring them up-to-date with more current 2012 ICC Building Code standards. 

Most of the changes to the codes are clarifications and reflective of changes made in the past, according to the discussion at the meeting. But one of the more debatable items the ICC added as part of its 2009 code updates was requiring fire sprinklers for new single family homes, according to discussion at a Monday planning commission meet. 

The Wheaton City Council is expected to further discuss the fire sprinkler code adoption during its April 7 meeting with a final vote expected at its April 21 meeting on the new building code. The city council can amend portions of the code moving forward. 

In the time-being, residents can share their feedback on the proposed code changes. The city of Wheaton has more information on its website on how to do so.

Fire Sprinkler System Requirement 

Currently, 91 municipalities and fire protection districts in Illinois mandate residential sprinkler installation in some form. Twelve of those municipalities are in DuPage County, and six of them adopted their mandates since the International Residential Code required residential sprinklers in 2009. 

"The fire industry strongly advocates for residential sprinklers to protect both life and property and thereby reduce costs to homeowners, occupants, and the surrounding community," according to a Feb. 24 city of Wheaton memo. "The building industry, on the other hand, values life and property but believes that the costs of mandating the installation of sprinklers in new homes reduces the purchasing power of potential homebuyers and negatively affects developing communities." 

Depending on the data source, costs to install sprinklers in new single family structures range from $1.35 to $4.21 per sprinklered square foot, according to city documents. 

One main reason for updating the codes is to ensure the city receives a favorable grade from the Insurance Services Organization—a grade that is used by insurance agencies to determine rates for private property owners, according to city documents and discussion from the planning commission meeting. 

The city of Wheaton could receive a lower grade if it doesn't update its building codes. 

Other Changes to Wheaton's Code 

Other changes proposed for Wheaton's code includes: 
  • Recognize wireless technology for interconnecting smoke detectors.
  • Door between garage and dwelling unit self closing.
  • HVAC system is not permitted to serve both dwelling unit and garage
  • Makeup air for kitchen exhaust hoods with a rating greater than 400 cfm.
  • Special provisions for roof gardens and landscaped roofs.
  • Minimum floor area of 50 sq. ft. for kitchens is deleted.
  • Automatic sprinkler to be provided throughout a new building of Group M occupancy that displays or sells upholstered furniture.
  • Y2 inch gypsum board applied to the underside of floor assemblies.
  • Provisions for gray-water recycling systems. 
You can find out more about the proposed updates and share your feedback.


billy March 01, 2014 at 09:40 AM
A Fire Department demo of sprinkler protected 10 foot square model room is interesting. I am critical of the scale of providing a sprinkler for 100 squared feet = 20 to 50 sprinkler heads per typical residence? Note my comments in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pFB_N79DiM
billy March 01, 2014 at 12:27 PM
The referenced fire test above introduces another complexity that commercial and large building use - noticed this in hallways of Wheaton, IL 121 apartments yesterday. Sprinkler heads like in the left test cell and 121 hallways can be covered with flat disk. The sprinkler is then activated not by heat melting a link in the sprinkler head BUT by an electronic sensor - either smoke or ionized (products of combustion). These sensors are located in multiple places in common public areas not isolated by closing doors - not a residence scheme. NOW the BAD part, these sensors are the weak point of these systems with some false alarms - get wet - and failure of sensor and needing periodic replacement of sensing element. At our corporate locations these sensors/false alarms/needing repair kept the fire department and/or contractor busy year round. Back to the staged fire tests, triggering the sprinkler head by electronic sensor is phony for residences..
billy March 02, 2014 at 10:03 AM
3 Fires within 1 block of our home in last 15 years are unlikely to have been helped by residential sprinkler systems. All started in garage/vehicles and left 2 homes uninhabitable. Problem with sprinkler protection for garage area is the large fuel available to burn for long period - cars/movers/blower/yard tools. This is called high hazard in industry and freeze protection needed. So now we are in an antifreeze or nitrogen padded sprinkler system with likely 6 sprinkler head over the vehicle and wetting down the wall/ceiling leading to occupied areas of residence. Smoke/heat/ionized gases of combustion can be used for solid state detection and early calls to fire department. Starting of vehicles/blowers/lawnmowers/yard equipment near/in garage could trigger all those open sprinkler heads by solid state detectors and dumping the water throughout the garage. If closed sprinkler heads with heat melting links are used the fire develops long enough (10% per minute, per minute) to involve the fuel sources mentioned previously - happened in both nearby fires. Fire Departments do NOT furnish details of finding in investigation of homes likely due to liability of home owners, insurance and municipal fire departments - could be helpful information to City of Wheaton Council member in deciding this issue. A video of a home garage fire: http://www.morningjournal.com/general-news/20140126/fire-destroys-garage-lorain-police-cruiser-with-video
billy March 22, 2014 at 10:10 PM
Sorry if I missed the WFD's publicly informing 16,000+ Wheaton Homeowners how sprinklers would help or prevent fires; 619 W. Frazier, 2076 Spring Green, 1598 S. Friars Ct, 1232 E. Oxford, and 1228 S. Gamon Rd ? Bet there are more home fires besides these that are highly questionable to have been prevented or helped by installing $10 - 20,000 sprinklers systems ? Now how can City of Wheaton Council Member vote responsibility if they don't have Fire Investigation Reports and engineering/contractor claims of improvement by sprinklers ?
Norah Chandler May 28, 2014 at 04:39 PM
Fire sprinklers are a great quick way to put out a fire. In movies they always seem to be going off at the wrong times and getting everything wet. In real life, how responsive are they? Do they usually work as intended? Norah Chandler| <a href='http://www.inlandfireprotectionco.com/fire-sprinklers--hydrants---pump-systems.html' > http://www.inlandfireprotectionco.com/fire-sprinklers--hydrants---pump-systems.html</a>

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