After fierce opposition from Twin Cities home builders, an administrative law judge recently ruled that the Department of Labor and Industry has the power to require sprinklers in some new houses as part of an amended residential building code that’s expected to be adopted sometime next year. Here's a link to that ruling.

That ruling follows a year-long debate over the issue (I last wrote about the debate in May 2012), which would require home builders in most of the state to install automatic fire sprinklers in new single-family houses that exceed 4,500 square feet.

Builders have fought the rule because they say it is unnecessary and could add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home. Though the square footage requirement is limited to those houses with more than 4,500 square feet, the rule applies to all conditioned space, includes most lower levels and bonus rooms even if the space is unfinished.

Eric Lipman, the administrative law judge who issued the ruling, wrote that “...the proposed rules are needed and reasonable.” James Vagle, public policy director for the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, said that the organization is considering its options. “We are continuing to seek ways to avoid imposing this unnecessary mandate on homeowners as this process continues he said.

The rule has received the support of fire officials who have argued that it will save lives and homes. The decision by the administrative law judge comes several weeks after a hearing to discuss the issue, which has been the subject of debate for several years. In both 2011 and 2012, the state legislature approved measures that would have forbidden the DLI from revising the state code to require installation of sprinkiers, but both measures were vetoed by Governor Dayton.

Here's part of Dayton's response: “I take very seriously the concerns which fire safety professionals have expressed about the safety of home residents, their properties and the lives of the men and women who courageously risk their lives to fight those fires.”

The measure could be implemented sometime later this year. Do you agree with Lipman's decision?

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