Home builders are not pleased with the decision Wednesday by the S.C. Building Codes Council to adopt modifications to the proposed building code that would require installation of sprinkler systems in all new residential construction.

"Our position is that sprinkler systems should not be mandatory," said Phillip Ford, executive vice president of the Charleston Trident Home Builders Association.

"If the citizens would like sprinklers in their homes, that should be an option, not a mandatory requirement."

The installation of a sprinkler system will add from $6,000 to $8,000 to the cost of a new home, he said. "It's going to knock a lot of people out of the market."

Fire safety considerations in new residential construction under present building codes already are saving lives, Ford said.

"If you look at what is mandated now to protect folks, we have interconnected, hard-wired smoke detectors and firewalls between the garage and the house," he said.

"The houses, the way they are constructed now, they're built so people can get out."

Proponents of mandatory residential sprinklers have said fire insurance premiums will decrease, but Ford said there is no guarantee of a discount on premiums.

"What we've seen is that it varies from company to company," he said.

Currently, smoke detectors that are required in new homes save about 95 percent of lives, he said.

Pending legislation in the S.C. Senate, Senate Bill 1057 would undo the action taken Wednesday by the Building Code Council, Ford said.

Residents who think sprinkler systems in new homes should be optional, rather than being mandated by the government, should contact their state senator and urge passage of the bill, he said.

Reach David W. MacDougall at macdougd@postandcourier.com or 937-5655.