The long-running battle between firefighters and builders over whether or not to require fire sprinklers in new homes ended this week, as the International Code Council (ICC) approved the inclusion of such a mandate in its 2009 International Residential Code (IRC).

Builders have long opposed such a requirement, but fire safety advocates prevailed in this week's vote after months of advocacy, arguing that residential sprinklers not only prevented loss of life among homeowners, but fire safety personnel as well. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of those at this week's ICC meeting voted for the measure.

As previously reported by BUILDER, the new requirement will become effective for one- and two-family homes as of Jan. 1, 2011, under the IRC. Estimated costs vary, with sprinkler supporters suggesting additional expenses as low as $1 per square foot and sprinkler opponents projecting extra fees for sprinklers running into thousands of dollars for a typical house.

However, states and localities follow different versions of the IRC, so it may take time for the requirement to become reality, as sprinkler advocate Ronny J. Coleman said in a statement this week. "The vote was a historic moment in residential fire safety--and is a significant step in a long journey before sprinklers are installed in every new home," said Coleman, who is president of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "We're now going to move forward at the state and local level to ensure the new code requirement is adopted."

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.