Home Sprinklers Featured at International Builders’ Show
Since the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) first staffed a booth at the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in the late 1990s, the organization transitioned from a small booth in the back of the hall with little traffic, to a large booth in the main hall filled with members of the homebuilding industry seeking information.
This year, HFSC’s 1,500-ft2 booth was located in a prime spot, in a high-traffic area in the main hall. More than 110,000 housing industry professionals attended the convention January 19-21 in Las Vegas. For the last three years, IBS has seen large growth due to its collaboration with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show and the improved economy.
The increased attendance comes at an opportune time when homebuilders are more interested in home fire sprinklers, since they are contained in the national model building codes.
According to Peg Paul, HFSC communications manager, many homebuilders visit the booth looking for general information because they know home fire sprinklers will be required at some point in the future. “We hear from quite a few builders who say they have not yet built a home with fire sprinklers, but know they eventually will do so. Once we have the opportunity to talk about the design and installation of NFPA 13D [Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes] systems, builders are often more curious and open to offering fire sprinklers as an option,” Paul said.
New this year, HFSC hosted an educational forum titled, “What Builders Need to Know About Home Fire Sprinklers.” The live forum was hosted five times over the course of the three-day show. Matt Klaus, principal fire protection engineer for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provided answers to typical questions from homebuilders about home fire sprinkler installations. In addition to having their personal fire sprinkler questions answered, the attendees also earned continuing education credits from the National Association of Home Builders.
During the forum, Klaus utilized a fire sprinkler display that showed how a typical NFPA 13D sprinkler system might appear in a home. It included the riser, piping and sprinklers themselves, showing the various options such as pendent, sidewall, and concealed sprinklers. The display also offered examples of optional components of a home fire sprinkler system such as a backflow valve, inspector test valve, water flow alarm, and spare sprinkler box. The display also attracted curious homebuilders and helped answer questions between the educational sessions.
The interactive Built For Life game was also one of the main draws of the HFSC booth. The educational game teaches attendees about home fire sprinklers through the use of multiple-choice questions and video answers. If homebuilders answered one question correctly, they were able to play a slot machine for a chance to win a smart TV or other prizes. Game show host and talent Tom Clark’s energy and charisma pulled in attendees from the show aisles and got them thinking about home fire sprinklers. While homebuilders waited in line to play the game for as much as 15 minutes, they watched and learned. Most homebuilders followed up the game by talking to HFSC representatives to obtain more information or asked questions about the fire sprinkler display.
This year, the success of the various elements of the HFSC booth made it more evident than ever before that the tide is turning and home fire sprinklers are gaining more traction with homebuilders. This was no more evident than through Doug Keaty, a general contractor from Fountain Hills, Arizona, with 35 years’ experience who was formerly with the New Mexico Home Builders Association. He attended Klaus’ exhibitor forum with some skepticism due to his past roles with the homebuilding industry, but now sees the importance of fire sprinklers in providing safer homes.
“We at the homebuilders association didn’t like someone telling us we had to put sprinklers in homes, but I know that things change with building science and everything else that is a part of making homes safer and better. Fire suppression is certainly part of that.” said Keaty. “We can [install fire sprinklers] fairly inexpensively and it can really save lives. I’m sold on it. I wasn’t 15 years ago, but absolutely now.”