New Jersey mandates fire sprinklers in all new townhouses

January 18, 2024

Governor Philip D. Murphy has enacted a new safety regulation for housing in New Jersey, mandating the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed townhouses.

The law, identified as Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 281, targets townhouses that have not yet applied for a construction permit and marks a step in enhancing residential fire safety.

New Safety Standards for Townhouses

The recently signed bill stipulates that all new townhouses which have not applied for a construction permit within the first day of the seventh month following the bill’s enactment are now required to be fitted with automatic fire sprinkler systems.

The legislation also instructs the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to formulate the necessary standards for design and construction of these systems within five months of the bill’s enactment.

Extension for Implementation of Fire Sprinklers

Acknowledging the time needed to develop, propose, and provide feedback on the new rules, Governor Murphy has committed to advocating for an extension.

This extension will allow DCA one year post-enactment to establish the rules, followed by an additional six-month grace period for code compliance initiation.

Governor Murphy stated: “While the adoption of rules within the time frame established by the bill would ensure the availability of hundreds of homes, including affordable units in inclusionary developments, anticipated projects that are far along in the planning process but have not completed construction applications by August 1 will not be affected.”

Further Legislative Actions

Governor Murphy assured ongoing support for the enhancement of this legislation by expressing his intention to endorse further bills that would grant more time for the adoption of these important rules.

He expressed his commitment, saying: “I am signing this bill today because of the importance of ensuring that the sprinkler requirement is enshrined in our law, and because of a commitment by the bill’s prime sponsors that they will immediately introduce and advocate for a bill in the new session that would create a significantly longer grandfathering period.”

The law comes into effect with a view to improving the fire safety of residential buildings and safeguarding the lives of inhabitants in New Jersey.

FSJA Comment

The enactment of Senate Bill No. 281 by Governor Murphy represents a proactive approach to fire safety in residential construction.

Fire sprinkler systems have been consistently recognized for their effectiveness in saving lives and reducing property damage in the event of a fire.

By requiring these systems in new townhouses, New Jersey is taking a measured step toward minimizing fire-related risks.

The extension for the adoption of the rules indicates a balanced consideration for ongoing developments and the need to ensure proper implementation.

This legislation could serve as a model for other states, emphasizing the importance of fire safety in modern residential design and construction.

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