At a conference in Minneapolis two years ago, the International Code Council approved the 2009 IRC, which includes a provision requiring sprinkler systems in new one- and two-family homes built after January 1, 2011. Passage of the code was marked by a controversial vote that took place in a meeting hall packed with both supporters and opponents of the provision, many of them flown or bused in for the occasion. Since then, builders have continued to oppose the sprinkler rule, claiming that it increases costs to consumers while adding little in the way of safety. And though their arguments may have failed to carry the day during the code-development process, they’re proving to be quite a bit more persuasive at the state level.

California stands alone. A number of municipalities nationwide have adopted the 2009 IRC with the sprinkler provision. But so far, only California has done so at the state level, with the expectation of enforcing the requirement across the board when it takes effect on January 1, 2011. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey have also adopted the...

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