Ordinance would mandate sprinklers in all high-rises

July 31, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The fire marshal wants automatic sprinklers installed in all high rise buildings. Right now, high rise built before 1975 in Chicago are exempt.

A room without sprinklers -- engulfed in in less than a minute, while one containing them creates a mess -- but little lasting damage.

Supporters of the proposed regulations agree sprinklers should be in new construction and retrofitted high-rises built before 1975.

Experts say today's fires burn hotter because of glues, laminates and other new materials used in construction. Sprinkler companies say even old buildings can be retrofitted inexpensively.

Many owners of older condos, however, don't buy it. They say they've retrofitted their buildings up to the fire code, installing door closures for example, and can't afford projects they feel may cost them $30,000-$40,000 per unit.

Owners of older commercial buildings could be forced to eliminate architectural features or close shop.

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