Costs and Benefits of Residential Fire Sprinklers

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Benefit-Cost Analysis of Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems


This report documents a benefit-cost analysis performed to measure the expected present value of net benefits resulting from the installation of a multipurpose network fire sprinkler system in a newly-constructed, single-family house. The benefits and costs associated with the installation and use of a fire sprinkler system are compared across three prototypical single-family housing types: colonial, townhouse, and ranch. The installation costs differ by housing types, with the colonial being the most expensive and the ranch the least.

The benefits experienced by residents of single-family dwellings with sprinkler systems, as measured in this report, include reductions in the following: the risk of civilian fatalities and injuries, homeowner insurance premiums, uninsured direct property losses, and uninsured indirect costs. The primary costs examined are for initial purchase and installation of the sprinkler system. Maintenance and repair costs are not examined because they are negligible.

Results of the benefit-cost analysis show that multipurpose network sprinkler systems are economical. The expected present value of net benefits (PVNB) in 2005 dollars is estimated as $2919 for the colonial-style house, $3099 for the townhouse, and $4166 for the ranch-style house. A sensitivity analysis is performed to measure the variability of the results to changes in the modeling assumptions. The sensitivity analysis confirms the robustness of the baseline analysis. The PVNB range from $704 to $4801 for the colonial-style house, from $884 to $4981 for the townhouse, and from $1950 to $6048 for the ranch-style house. Multipurpose network systems are the lowest life-cycle cost systems because homeowners can perform their own regular inspections and maintenance, and thereby save on costs they would incur with other systems. Given that they provide a similar level of performance, in terms of fire-risk mitigation, multipurpose network systems then achieve greater cost-effectiveness over alternate systems.

Economic Analysis of Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems


This report designs and applies a comparative life-cycle cost analysis to multipurpose network and stand-alone fire sprinkler systems designed in compliance with NFPA 13D. The life-cycle costs of the systems are studied in each of three NIST-designed prototypical house floorplans: a 3338 ft2 (310 m2) two-story colonial with basement, a 2257 ft2 (210 m2) three-story townhouse, and a 1171 ft2 (109 m2) single-story ranch.

The economic analysis follows the standard method in ASTM E917-02, and includes those elements of life-cycle cost that are unique to each system, such as design, material, installation and inspection costs. System plans, a comprehensive list of required components, and material costs were obtained from manufacturers and sprinkler system installers. NIST economists obtained data on a multipurpose network design and three stand-alone designs from manufacturers and sprinkler system installers. To these material cost data were added estimates of installation cost and design cost. In addition to the economic analysis of the sprinkler system designs, this report documents the collection and development of the cost data.

The comparative analysis is applied to the cost data to determine which of the proposed systems analyzed in this report has the lowest estimated life-cycle cost. Estimated cost results for all systems are within a close range, and are most sensitive to the decision to incorporate a backflow preventer. Both the cost data in this report and the cost-effectiveness analysis are intended to support a follow-on benefit-cost study by NIST on residential sprinkler systems.

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