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151: Forest Fire-resistant home

Problem:

In 2018 some 24,226 buildings were destroyed in Californian wildfires During the bushfire season 2019-2020 more than 2,500 homes were destroyed. The 2020 fires in California destroyed at least 4,100 structures.

Solution:

Materials which resist forest fires


In June 2009, not long after Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires claimed 173 lives and destroyed more than 2,000 houses, a group of architects came together to help those who had been affected.

As part of the Victorian bushfire reconstruction and recovery authority’s “We will Rebuild” initiative, they offered free consultations and 19 customisable pro bono designs, which were environmentally sustainable and met the “higher end” of the building standards for those in bushfire prone areas. Surprisingly only a few of those homes were built.

In such zones, highly fire-resistant materials are a must for building designs which are devoid of vents or roof overhangs where embers can penetrate or become trapped. Use refractories such as bricks and ICFs (insulated concrete forms), polystyrene blocks that fit together like Lego to form a house’s shell.

Filled with concrete, one of the most fire and heat-resistant of construction materials—ICFs create solid insulated walls that lock out sound and weather. They can reportedly withstand a fire for up to four hours.

For roofs, black ceramic house tiles or other fire rated roofing materials are designed to interlock tightly and are installed over a fire resistant cap sheet.

An additional solution are roll-down metal fire doors built into the roof overhangs or side recesses, and released automatically by fusible links. Then there are conspicuous sprinkler systems and leaf-shedding gutter designs

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