Fire Resistant Green Building for the Western States

I   PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT!

  • Global Warming Equals Increasing Fire Danger
  • Build a Durable Fire resistant Structure
  • Fire Resistant Roofing
  • Fire Resistant Decking
  • Maintain a Defensible Space

II   LESSONS FROM THE 1993 LAGUNA BEACH FIRE – WHAT SURVIVED?

  • Many if not most homes burned from the inside out (fire storm heat ignited interior curtains, etc)
  • Stucco, or cement walls preferred. If wood siding, apply over 5/8 sheetrock fire wall for improved fire resistance.
  • All projections (roof eaves, etc) protected on underside with cement plaster, or sheathed with cement board (Certainteed, Hardie, etc.) for a wood look.
  • Minimize venting, screened at openings to prevent flaming embers from entering vents. Removable fires stop vent blocks in place during periods of high fire danger.
  • Coat wood decks with Pacific Polymers urethane deck covering or treat with fire resistant coatings
  • Well insulated, well sealed envelope, and high thermal mass slow interior heating and ignition.

III  GREEN & FIRE RESISTANT

  • SCIP (Structural Concrete Insulated Panel) i.e.: ICS 3D Panel
  • Straw Bale
  • ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms
  • COB
  • ADOBE
  • PISE / Rammed Earth
  • SIP (with cement board siding)
  • I.E. Concrete Based, Earth Based, or fill the wall with foam or straw so no chimney effect and sheath with cement board or stucco!

IV 3D PANEL (SCIP=STRUCTURAL INSULATED CONCRETE PANEL)

Outstanding insulation and energy efficiency

  • Outstanding strength-to-weight ratio equals Superior Earthquake Resistance (about as good as it gets)
  • Thick, soundproof walls
  • High thermal mass, located on inner wall skins where it works great!
  • Excellent flame resistance & longevity
  • More green than most cement based systems, since it uses ½ (or less) the cement & steel of most ICF and block walls
  • Quick learning curve, but requires skilled concrete application
  • Use river rock, heavy timbers and wood accents to give “Tahoe Look” and “old world look”
  • May side with Certainteed weatherboard for “Tahoe” look

V    STRAW BALE

  • Super Insulated
  • Beautiful, nice feel to it.
  • Thick, soundproof walls
  • Old World hand crafted feel lends itself to sculptural effects.
  • Use slab floors to add thermal mass (no inherent thermal mass)
  • Excellent flame resistance due to lack of internal wall air channels. Rice straw provides superior fire resistance due to high silica content.
  • Larger structures usually require wood supporting frame (typically post and beam)

VI    ICF (INSULATED CONCRETE FORM)

  • Well Insulated
  • Thick, soundproof walls
  • Use slabs to add thermal mass (mass of concrete insulated from interior, so it does no good as thermal mass)
  • Decent flame resistance and super long life (foam in most ICFs may melt in fire, requiring costly repair work). “Durisol” type of ICF uses no foam and is inherently flame proof.
  • Quick learning curve
  • Use prestained Certainteed concrete based weatherboard siding for flame proof “Tahoe Look”

VII    COB

  • “Dirt Cheap Materials”
  • Beautiful, old world thick curvy walls
  • High thermal mass
  • Needs added insulation for cold or hot climates
  • Very labor intensive
  • Best combined with straw bale on northern and shaded sides for added insulation
  • Probably not a good Tahoe match due to insulation and seismic requirements
  • Limited earthquake resistance, depending on steel reinforcement in walls.

VIII    PISE (PNEUMATICALLY IMPACTED STABILIZED EARTH)

  • David Easton developed PISE to replace Rammed Earth in N. CA due to seismic requirements that placed a lot of steel in forms making it difficult to ram the earth
  • Outstanding thermal mass & Insulation
  • Labor and materials intensive (tons of steel and cement to stabilize massive walls)
  • Bob & Penny Fink home in Truckee

IX    FLAME RESISTANT ROOFING

  • Use only “Class A” fire rated roofing
  • Most composition shingles are “Class A” fire rated
  • Metal roofs are Class A with Versashield underlayment (or similar)
  • Recommend two layers Versashield FR underlayment FR barrier for extra fire barrier to plywood sheeting
  • Class A Roofing must withstand burning embers on roof without igniting plywood sheeting
  • Best fire resistance by adding Denz Deck underlayment
  • “Living” roofs have excellent fire resistance!
  • New Solar PV tiles from Open Energy withstands “Burning Brand” test with 2 layers versashield
  • If near to tree limbs, should sheath eaves with stucco or cement board (or at least use flame stop coating)
  • With “Class A” roofing, eaves and overhangs probably most vulnerable area of roof from the fire down below.

X    FIRE RESISTANT DECKING

  • Fire-retardant treatment does not prevent wood from burning, nor does it slow up penetration of fire in structural members. Its main benefit is to retard ignition and the rate of surface spread. Great for preventing ignition from burning embers. Does little to prevent ignition from severe fire storm heat.
  • “Flamestop”, “Firestop”, “Universal Fire Shield”, etc., fire retardant coatings for deck timbers to prevent burning ember ignition (will not prevent combustion in a firestorm of extreme heat).
  • “Dricon” or similar, for indoor wood, trusses etc
  • Polyurethane and fiber deck overlay (Pacific Polymer, etc) makes huge flame retardant gain
  • Most plastic/wood composite (Trex, etc) decking is hard to ignite but not fire proof. Burns like a candle once it gets hot enough. There is a new fire resistant Trex on the market that has a flame retardant additive built in (Class “B” flame retardant). Due to new California “Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Products” code, others are sure to follow.
  • Outstanding fireproof decking with plastic/fly-ash LEED certified composite decking boards from Lifetime Lumber (www.ltlumber.com). Class “B” flame retardance is standard, class “A” flame retardance is now available (or will be shortly). Support lumber should be treated with fire retardant coating, but since it is thicker, it is usually not as much of a problem as long as flammable undergrowth is cleared away.

Best of luck to you!

Click here for a PDF slideshow.

Matthew Stein, PE General Contractor
CA Lic #805418
HI Lic #BC23798
www.stein-design.com  
www.3dsmartstructures.com