Homeowners who have been impacted are already beginning the arduous recovery and rebuild process. As we take steps forward it is paramount that the new hillside homes take into consideration the ecology of the southern California wildland-urban interface and the physics of wildfires.
To live peacefully in the hillsides we must understand and work with the nature of this ecosystem. It is mandatory and essential that we build consciously and intelligently.
Traditionally, when designing and building a home, architects, contractors and homeowners would take an inside-out approach to fire protection with most of focus on the inside (smoke alarms, one hour fire resistant walls) and very little external consideration, typically centered around fire resistant roofs. Most external protection considerations focused on rain intrusion.
This approach is no longer enough to protect homes and families -- especially for hillside dwellings vulnerable to wildfires. It’s time to use a different, more intelligent approach. Intelligent architectural design decisions greatly improve the chances the home will survive the next, eventual wildfire.
Some key examples of fire safety design considerations include:
- Optimal site design (such as where the structure is located and surrounding features)
- Fire resistant materials (be at the forefront or ahead of the requirements)
- Points of entry and airflow (doors, windows, garage doors)
- Ember path vulnerability (paths into cavities such as attics, crawl spaces, vents)
- Green bumpers (plants, green walls, terraces and planters)
- Roof and deck sprinkler systems (that becomes a rain curtain when fire approaches)
If you are rebuilding on the hillside in California we encourage you to talk intelligent design with your architect and contractor. The list above is a great starting point.
If you’re looking for an architect and would like discuss your project -- we’re here to help.
We are in the process of collaborating with other local professionals -- architects, designers, engineers, builders, contractors -- and working with city building, safety and planning departments as well as the local chapter of the AIA to ease the process for impacted homeowners and establish a pool of qualified local resources and best practices. To get in touch, drop us an email or give us a call at 805.766.9600 and we’ll get back to you right away.
Interested in more wildfire related articles? Here are some good reads:
William Growdon is an architect living and practicing architecture in Ventura. With more than 30 years experience in architecture, design and building -- William has designed and directed hundreds of structural projects, big and small, throughout California. William is the owner and principal of studioDIG architects, a full service architecture and design firm specializing in modern architecture with minimal environmental impact.
Learn more at studioDIG.com or call 805.766.9600.