Homeowners face more post-Sandy rebuilding costs

Fire sprinklers now required in elevated homes


The hits keep coming for residents trying to rebuild long after Hurricane Sandy: A New York state building mandate has new requirements for elevated homes.

Three-story homes, which in New York now include the elevated, two-story Federal Emergency Management Agency-compliant houses that have become prevalent in Long Beach, will now be required to install fire sprinklers, an addition that could cost homeowners anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000, according to Long Beach Building Commissioner Scott Kemins.

In December, the New York State Division of Building Standards and Codes released a bulletin clearing up a rule that was previously left open to interpretation by municipalities. The state has long required three-story homes to have sprinkler systems, but Kemins said that the city assumed that the type of three-story homes most commonly seen in Long Beach, with two stories over a foundation or garage, did not fit that description.

“After the storm, so many people were raising their homes,” Kemins said. “It set off an alarm with the state and they revisited the subject.” Now, he said, any one- or two-family home whose first livable floor is at least six feet above the ground is considered a three-story home.

Kemins said that the reason for the requirement is that in a higher three-story house, occupants have farther travel to get out in the event of a fire. A sprinkler system would protect them and make exiting the structure safer. Kemins said that the systems usually include a sprinkler in every room, except for bathrooms and closets.

“In my personal opinion, this was not the time to make this determination,” he said. “I think they should’ve waited. For many years there has been a lobby to get this law passed, and I think they tried to seize this opportunity to get a foot in the door.”

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