City Council set to vote on mandatory sprinklers

A motion passed by the executive committee last week making sprinkler systems mandatory in all new home dwellings is set to be voted on by city council on Wednesday.

The motion to create the bylaw was carried by council last week 7-2 in favour with Mayor Sandra Masters and councillor Jason Mancinelli voting against it.

“We've heard from industry on both sides but we haven't heard from residents and so when it comes to housing affordability, I do know that that is his number one issue for the City of Regina residents,” said Masters.

If passed by city council, the new bylaw will mandate sprinklers in all new residential buildings and mandating builders to give future homeowners an option to install a sprinkler system as part of their new building design.

New residential buildings include apartments, low-rise multi-family residential units, and one or two unit homes.

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If the bylaw is passed by city council, it will need provincial approval before its official effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.

According to officials, in many communities that sprinkler systems are required, they have been mandated as an alternative to insufficient emergency response times and restrictive building requirements. However, sprinklers are not a substitute of a fire department response.

The Regina Fire Department said the best way to prevent a fire is to educate residents.

“One of our primary goals is to prevent those fires from happening before they even happen and that's you educating changing behaviours,” said Layne Jackson, Chief of Regina Fire.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has set the industry benchmark as the first arriving firefighting unit to structure fires at 6 minutes and 24 seconds 90 per cent of the time.

A study done within the Fire Master Plan includes a study period of 2017 to 2021 and shows the average response time to southeast area of Regina at seven minutes and 20 seconds 90 per cent of the time.

There is a high cost to having sprinkler systems installed in homes and apartments, starting at $4 dollars per square foot.

President and CEO of Regina & Region Home Builders Association Stu Neiburgall said they are not against sprinklers but the high cost that comes with it.

“There's so many more things that we could be achieving around safety and this one would certainly be at a lower priority,” he said.

Neiburgall added he believes the city should do its due diligence and look even further into the matter.

“Look at all the data, look at all the information, all the input, and really take a look at what would actually be achieved by such as such a motion?” he said.

Sprinkler systems would also have an impact on construction costs. A fire alarm system can cost upwards of $5,000 per building plus an additional $2,000 per unit in the apartment.

Currently apartment style buildings can be built 3-stories high without having sprinklers.

Swift Current is a city that has regulated sprinklers to their homes and it came with an additional cost of $10,000-$15,000 per home. The costs are similar to what is being estimated by the Regina & Region Home Builder’s Association.

Regina & Region Home Builders Association said they will be holding a rally outside of city hall Wednesday before city council begins their meeting.