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Minnesota Legislature

Bill OK'd to mandate retrofitting high-rise residential buildings with fire sprinklers

Hassanen Mohamed provides emotional testimony on HF3003 that would require automatic sprinkler systems be installed in certain existing high-rise buildings. Rep. Mohamud Noor, left, sponsors the bill. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Five people died in a Nov. 27 fire that started on the 14th floor in the Cedar High Apartments public housing complex in Minneapolis.

Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL-Mpls) represents the area and wants to ensure it doesn’t happen there — or anywhere — again.

He sponsors HF3003 that would require all high-rise residential buildings taller than the reach of fire department ladders to have automatic sprinkler systems installed by Aug. 1, 2032.

It was approved by the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division Thursday and sent to the House Housing Finance and Policy Division. There is no Senate companion.

The bill would require existing residential buildings taller than 75 feet to have automatic sprinkler systems installed, already a requirement for buildings built after 1979. High-rise residential buildings built prior to that date would need to be retrofitted with sprinklers meeting current building code specifications.

Retrofitting these older high-rise buildings with sprinklers would “give everyone a safe and secure home,” said Noor. “We have waited for too long to address this issue.”

Abdi Mohamed was among the testifiers who lost family members in the fire.

“There is no price, no number, you can put on human life, on those who died in the high rise on Nov. 27, including my beloved Ma,” Mohamed said.

The costs of such retrofitting was on the mind of some division members, including Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia), who asked whether landlords who paid for sprinkler installation would need to significantly raise rents to pay for the work.

George Sherman, owner of the property management company Sherman Associates, said he was able to retrofit sprinklers into a high-rise property he manages without raising rent. He said he was helped by low interest rates on the money he borrowed to do the work, plus some federal grant money.

Sherman also noted that insurance rates will typically decrease between 5% and 15% for owners after sprinklers are installed, making the retrofitting a good investment for owners.

“I think you’ll find that many private owners want to be part of the solution,” he said.

Certain types of buildings, and spaces within buildings, would be exempt from the sprinkler requirement. Examples of exemptions include buildings where specific activities occur (monuments, airport control, parking, agriculture, elevators, electric plants, telecommunications) or manufacturing facilities covered by federal fire standards.

 


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