State Panel Approves Lower Threshold For Sprinklers In Buildings

A state panel has acted against the pleas of the state fire marshal by softening a rule about what types of buildings require sprinklers.

The state Building Code Council voted 8-to-4 to relax the new standard, which required sprinklers in new buildings where at least 100 people gather to eat or drink. Instead, the council voted to raise the standard to 300 people for buildings other than nightclubs, which it didn't define.

North Carolina was one of the states that adopted a stricter rule on sprinklers after 100 people died in 2003 in a fire at a Rhode Island nightclub. Starting January First, the threshold went to 100 people, down from the previous 300.

But the council voted to raise the number back to 300 at the request of a group of North Carolina architects, which said the lower threshold would add unreasonable costs for independent business owners and school districts in rural areas that can't get city water.