Builders in Camas, WA, had one week last winter to respond when they were told that their city council would be considering a proposal to mandate fire sprinklers in new single-family home construction. The mandate, which had the backing of the local fire marshal and several city council members, would have added roughly $2,500 to the cost of an average sized house.

Realizing the effect the mandate could have on affordability and consumer choice in the southwestern Washington community, the Building Industry Association of Clark County jumped into action and requested that the city council delay consideration of the sprinkler proposal. The delay was granted.

"That bought us the time we needed to push for aggressive consumer education instead of a fire sprinkler mandate," said Matt Lewis, the association's government affairs director.

The Clark County BIA then contacted its state association and NAHB's Construction, Codes and Standards department for information about the drawbacks of mandatory fire sprinklers. It also conducted significant research of its own so it could develop an effective rebuttal and education campaign, which it called the Fire Sprinkler Education Program.

The program was designed to provide citizens interested in building a home with factual information about fire sprinklers, and required contractors to receive a Residential Fire Sprinkler Material Information Kit with each permit application. It also required the home buyer or builder to sign a receipt acknowledging that the education materials were read before the permit could be issued.

For its efforts, in addition to achieving its policy goals and having the mandate defeated, the Clark County association and campaign was honored with NAHB's State & Local Government Affairs Recognition Award.

For more information on the BIA of Clark County's efforts, contact Matt Lewis at (360) 694-0933. Learn more about the NAHB's work on fire sprinklers by contacting Jeff Inks at (800) 368-5242 x 8547.