To state the obvious, mandating the installation of sprinkler systems in residential construction beginning in 2011 is intended to control the spread of fire. While it’s hard to argue with the intent of the code, I can’t help but wonder why a more logical approach wasn’t considered.
The primary fuel source for any house fire is the home itself. The exterior shell makes up 90% of the building materials used to construct a new home. Why not replace the wood frame which is highly flammable and serves as the conduit for the spread of fire, with non-flammable concrete walls and floors? This solution increases fire protection and at the same time reduces energy consumption for the life of the home. Instead of spending money on something the homeowner may never need, concrete walls lessen the chance of fire and provide additional benefits they will use every single day. Sprinkler systems add cost while concrete walls save the homeowner money. Instead of adding sprinklers to control the fire, why not address the root of the problem and eliminate the primary fuel source altogether?
RASTRA provides a 4-hour fire rating. When fire tested by UL a 2000˚F flame was placed directly on the panel surface for over five hours, RASTRA did not ignite, produced no toxins, and produced a smoke density of 5 (450 is permissible). By removing the fuel source the potential ignition and spread of fire is practically eliminated. It's also worth pointing out that RASTRA panels provide a solid wall without cavities like those found in wood frame walls. By eliminating the cavity which creates a chimney-like effect for fire, and serves as a pathway for fire to spread is eliminated.
In addition to a more fire-resistent house, homeowners will enjoy other benefits including protection against tornados and hurricanes, reduced energy consumption, cleaner indoor air quality, a quieter interior, reduced maintenance expense and a dramatically lower cost-of-ownership.
For those who care about the environment, replacing wood with RASTRA will also save trees (2.3 acres per new home) and emit 2-3 fewer tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each and every year for an average sized home. Contaminants such as formaldehyde, wood preservatives and even pesticides will also be eliminated.
By redirecting the additional cost of a sprinkler system, which may never be used, to offset the small increase in price of a high performance wall system like RASTRA, the homeowner will have the opportunity to recover the expense many times over in energy savings. Instead of increasing the homeowner's monthly payment by adding a sprinkler system, the same result can be realized with additional benefits thrown in, and the monthly cost will even be reduced. Insurers will continue to offer lower insurance premiums as a result of lowering the risk of not only fire but all other natural disasters as well.
RASTRA walls will never need maintenance and offer a passive fire solution that can't be disconnected by the homeowner. Removing sprinklers also removes the potential from water damage caused by pipes freezing or accidentally discharging, causing damage to the home. The burden placed on townships to increase water line capacity and pressure to support sprinkler systems is also eliminated. And lastly, a concrete home can provide protection anywhere including rural areas serviced by wells.
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