Trump Tower Fire Rekindles Automatic Sprinkler Debate

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For the second time in three months, a fire in Trump Tower has made national headlines, sparking a fresh debate as to whether current regulations for automatic sprinklers in NYC residential buildings are extensive enough.

On Saturday, April 7, a fire in a residential apartment on the 50th floor left its owner dead and six firefighters injured before the fire was extinguished, according to CNN. Authorities made a point of mentioning that the residences in the tower are not equipped with automatic sprinkler systems, which caused the fire to spread more quickly.

 

Why Were There No Sprinklers?

At the time Trump Tower was completed in 1983, automatic sprinkler systems were not required in residential buildings in NYC, or at least in the residential sections. In 1999, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani signed legislation requiring new residential structures to be outfitted with sprinkler systems. At the time, fire safety advocates also lobbied that the law require older residential buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers; however, Trump and others lobbied against the measure, saying it was too expensive. In the end, Giuliani signed a bill that grandfathered Trump Tower and similar buildings in a category that exempted them from complying with new sprinkler regulations.

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Rekindling the Debate

This week, as CBS New York reports, the head of the City Council Housing and Buildings Committee is planning to announce a new push for legislation requiring all NYC high-rises to be retrofitted with automatic sprinkler systems—including Trump Tower. In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, commercial and office buildings are already subject to retrofitting regulations, as covered in Local Law 26. If it goes through, the proposed new legislation would close this gap for residential structures.

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How This Could Affect You

If you’re a developer currently building a multi-story structure in NYC, you’re probably already aware of requirements to install sprinkler systems; that won’t change. If you are purchasing and/or remodeling an existing residential structure in the city, you should monitor this situation in the upcoming months as current laws may change. If you have any questions about installing automatic sprinkler systems in your building, give Wellbuilt a call at 1.866.846.4874.