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High Rise Retrofit Could Cost Millions

Philadelphia skyline

Legislation introduced recently in Philadelphia City Council mandating the retrofitting of all high-rise buildings in the City to provide for in-unit fire suppression sprinklers is expected to cost the owners of condominiums and cooperative units millions of dollars in construction costs.

City Council Bill #220299, requiring the retrofit installation of Automatic Sprinkler systems in existing high-rise buildings, was introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla on March 31, 2022. 

According to the Pennsylvania Apartment Association, with whom CAI is working on this issue, retrofitting an existing, older high rise building poses a significant cost, likely in the tens of thousands of dollars per unit.  Based on National Fire Sprinkler Association estimates, retrofitting a 400,000 sq. ft. high-rise building runs anywhere between $800,000 to $4 million, roughly $12,700 per unit. This figure does not consider the costs associated with potential disturbance or exposure to dormant encapsulated asbestos or lead. 

While CAI understands and shares the goal of preventing deadly fires in high rise buildings, the costs of compliance with this legislation will create financial burdens on condominium and cooperative associations and unit owners, especially given the unique circumstances of community association reserve funds and the advance planning necessary to ensure funds are available for such capital improvements short of a massive special assessment to cover such an unplanned capital expenditure.

CAI is collecting data on high rise buildings in Philadelphia that may be impacted by this legislation. If you manage, live in, or serve on the board of a building that will be impacted by this legislation, please complete the survey below and assist CAI in understanding the scope and impact of this legislation. 


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