New Jersey fire sprinkler bill goes down in flames

May 13, 2015
Gov. Chris Christie vetoes legislation that would have required sprinklers in new single and two-family homes

Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed legislation that would have required fire sprinkler systems to be installed in all new single and two-family homes built in the state.

In his veto message, Christie said that mandating sprinkler systems would increase the upfront costs of homes by thousands of dollars and would "further burden" many of the state’s residents who are still working to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Christie also expressed several other concerns with the bill as it is currently written.

“I am also concerned with the bill’s inflexibility. As written, the bill would require every new home to have a sprinkler system, regardless of the individual design or construction of that dwelling. But different structures have different needs depending on their individual characteristics. For example, the safety requirements of a twenty-story apartment building are vastly different than those of a one-story brick 2 cottage,” wrote Christie. “Mandating that code officials require sprinklers in every home, regardless of whether sprinklers are appropriate in the given structure, is unwarranted. With all construction, the law must reach the right balance between safety and cost, and I am concerned about any bill that would jettison traditional considerations in place of an unyielding mandate.”

Christie was not opposed to potentially having the legislation reworked to require sprinkler systems in townhomes adding, “…it may be appropriate to take extra steps to ensure that a fire does not spread across units or otherwise adversely affect neighboring homes.”

As such, the governor recommended that the bill be amended to require the Department of Community Affairs to examine whether or not fire sprinklers would be appropriate in townhomes and change the Uniform Construction Code as necessary.