2008-02-11, 16:33

Sprinklers and Smoke Detectors --- Must We Retrofit Existing Apartments?

By: Multifamily Real Estate Industry Team
It appears from a November 9, 2007 National Multifamily Housing Council building code update that many apartment owners and property managers are being pressured by local building officials to retrofit existing apartments with sprinklers and smoke detectors based on misinformation about what federal law requires.

The fact is that there are no federal requirements to retrofit sprinklers or smoke detectors. And the International Building Code (IBC) also contains no requirements for such retrofits. However, if an apartment building is in a jurisdiction in which the International Fire Code (IFC) has been adopted, there is a requirement for retrofitting of smoke detectors (although not sprinklers). The detectors can be battery powered if they are being placed in an existing building where no construction is taking place.

Likewise, in jurisdictions that are subject to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulations (jurisdictions in which the IBC and the IFC have not been adopted), existing buildings must be retrofitted with smoke detectors, but not sprinklers, and the detectors can be battery operated.

So to answer to the question "must we retrofit", you must determine which codes apply in the jurisdiction in which the facility is located. Persuading the local building officials that you need not retrofit is, of course, another matter.

(This entry published by Karen Estelle Carey, A member of the Real Estate Development group)

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