New homes built in Forest Park are about to get safer, says the new Director of Public Health and Safety Steve Glinke, because sprinklers will be required in all new-construction single-family dwellings.

“Sprinklers cost about two dollars a square foot. They’re cheaper than bad carpeting,” says Glinke. On Monday he presented to the Forest Park Village Council the first reading of a proposal to update the village’s construction codes to international standards provided by the International Code Council (ICC). Glinke, who is also Forest Park’s fire chief, says most of the updates will just tweak existing fire and building codes. But a couple of exceptions will specifically apply to Forest Park.

Along with aforementioned new home sprinklers, the village will require a sprinkler retrofit in major home renovations (that increase the building footprint by 50 percent or more). Glinke also says any new-construction commercial properties will require sprinklers too.

“There are two things we know about sprinklers: they contain fire to the room-of-origin and they save lives,” says Glinke, who calls himself a “new building guy and an old fire guy.” Glinke says that 65 Chicagoland municipalities have adopted the new-construction sprinkler regulations.

Other changes will include requiring hard-wired fire alarms in public spaces in multi-unit buildings (apartments and condos of more than 10 units). These would include hallways, laundry rooms and storage units. This requirement will be phased in over five years.

Glinke insists that the regulations don’t exist to put undue economic hardships on businesses and residents. Monday’s proposal is amended, for example, to exempt commercial structures from retrofitting expenses unless the space exceeds 2,500 square feet and the interior renovations are major: such as moving or removing 75 percent of the walls.

“The businesses on Madison Street turn over with predictable frequency,” he says. Making them retrofit with every new tenant would discourage business.

Three public meetings have already been held about the proposal.

Putting teeth into the fire codes is absolutely necessary for high-density towns like Forest Park with 100-year-old properties and “zero lot lines” because fire almost always spreads between two or more buildings.

“I only wish could have had it during our mini-boom,” says Glinke.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...