Sprinkler bill allows easier compliance for condo owners
A bill making it easier for owners of older high-rise residential buildings to meet a tougher fire safety law comes up for a final vote before the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
A bill making it easier for owners of older high-rise residential buildings to meet a tougher fire safety law comes up for
a final vote before the
Honolulu City Council
The tougher requirements became law last year in the wake of the July 2017 fire at the Marco Polo condominium that killed four people. The original plan would have required all 360-plus pre-1975 condo buildings that are at least 75 feet tall and built without automatic sprinkler systems to install them. But condo owners expressed worries that the cost of installing a system might force some of them to sell their units, and the version of the bill that eventually became law instead requires owners to conduct a building fire and safety evaluation within three years and to comply with the evaluation’s findings in six years.
The bill received preliminary approval Monday from the Council Public Infrastructure, Technology and Sustainability Committee. Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, who chairs the committee, said the bill was introduced to clarify ambiguities in the new ordinance.
“I think we’re almost there where we finally have something that the owners, the Fire Department, the design professionals and the management organization can get their arms around,” Fukunaga said.
Building owners have raised concerns about being able to meet the deadlines, especially since they say they don’t believe all the details of the new law have been worked out. They noted that the Honolulu Fire Department has not yet come up with a definitive list of the buildings that need to comply. The number of buildings identified as needing to comply has increased to 377 from 361 when the law passed. But Deputy Fire Chief Socrates Bratakos said the owners of most of those buildings self-reported that they might need to come under the new law.
Bill 96 (2018), a new measure, would allow for the six-year compliance deadline to be paused or suspended whenever the Department of Planning and Permitting cannot process a building permit within 90 days. The length of the additional time
allowed would be the number of days beyond 90 that building owners would need to wait.
DPP has been criticized recently for holding up construction projects because of lengthy permit approval times.
Another proposed change would allow owners of a building who opt to install an automatic sprinkler system to skip the requirement to undergo a building fire and life safety evaluation, provided that the permit is obtained through a state-licensed specialty contractor. The law now requires the evaluation even when the owners decide to install sprinklers.
Also proposed is a change in the language
that would allow an evaluation to be prepared not just by a licensed design professional, but “a building’s authorized representative under the supervision of a licensed design professional.” The completed
evaluation would still need to be stamped with the licensed design professional’s authorized seal or stamp.
The Fire Department would be required to include its list of applicable buildings in the ordinance, but with updated lists posted on its website. The department also would need to submit reports to the Council every six months for two years.
A 1975 law required newly constructed residential towers to include automatic sprinkler systems, but more than 360 condos built before that did not have them. The 36-story Marco Polo complex was built without sprinklers but installed them after the 2017 fire.
Last year the Council passed a bill that would have extended the time for owners to complete its safety evaluation by two years, but the measure was vetoed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.