What the Construction Industry Can Learn from California Wildfires

The merciless destruction caused by the California wildfires is an opportunity for the construction industry to revisit building codes and requirements for more fire resistant construction, especially in the wildland urban areas. Many of these areas don’t have a professional fire department nearby, so the delay in getting fire support can be disastrous.  By making homes better able to withstand heat and fire could greatly mitigate losses such as these.

The Camp Fire in Northern California destroyed more than 8,000 homes and burned 140,000 acres. Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties destroyed over 500 homes and scorched more than 98,000 acres. Studies show that a wood structure will combust immediately and once 4-5 percent of a wooden building is on fire, it becomes a total loss.

These compelling statistics beg the question — Why are better building materials not used in the first place?

Fact is, there is a building material called RSG 3D cementitious sandwich panel that could have saved some of these homes. This kind of panel technology has been used by NASA for years in building spacecraft. If that’s the case, why has this product not been used more effectively in the United States, especially in wildfire-prone areas?

The answer is because the U.S. is blessed with so many forests, wood is less expensive as a building material. However, with new energy codes emerging, especially in the northern states and California, net-zero houses are required. You simply cannot achieve net-zero house construction with wood. Period.

In California alone, more than 200 cities are deemed to be in ‘very high fire hazard’ severity zones. In terms of wildfire, wood frame construction is basically fuel for fires. With the RSG 3-D panel system there is at least a two-hour fire rating, meaning that you can apply open flame to the walls for at least two hours with no combustion. That would allow more time for fire departments and other emergency responders to extinguish the fire and prevent it from getting out of control.

FC Construction is an innovative leader in providing technological products and services currently used in construction throughout the country. We believe products such as RSG 3-D will likely find endorsement by much of the construction industry moving forward.

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