For sprinklers

December 13, 2011

There was a time when indoor toilets weren't part and parcel of new home construction. Same goes for electricity and heating systems. These days, though, to be considered up to code and eligible to be sold, a house has to have these basic amenities.

No doubt, the day will come when a house without fire suppression sprinklers will be considered as ancient as a house today is considered old if it had to be retrofitted for electricity. The Harford County Council (or at least all its members except Mary Ann Lisanti) don't seem to regard this increasingly basic safety feature to be a necessity, and voted last week to delay implementation of a law that would require new homes to have sprinkler systems in them if built starting early in the new year.

A major reason cited, as usual, was the fear that requiring sprinklers in new homes will add to the cost of those homes. It will, but not by an amount that makes new homes unaffordable. This can be said with absolute certainty because sprinkler systems already are required in new townhouses, and have been since the mid-1990s. Townhouses generally are regarded in the real estate market as starter homes, geared and priced to families of relatively modest means. Townhouses, even with sprinkler systems, are less expensive than single family homes that have no sprinklers, and they remain the most affordable of home real estate investments.

Requiring sprinklers in single family homes will no more price those homes out of the market than requiring sprinkler systems in townhomes nearly two decades ago resulted in a decrease in the number of townhome communities built in Harford County.

The county council's action last week was foolish, should be reconsidered and then reversed.

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