Our prefabricated system is becoming increasingly popular as the best solution to those who are looking to rebuild after the fire. Many people feel they must choose between a fast rebuild and a safe, “fire defense” rebuild. With Stillwater client’s don’t have to choose. We offer fast-track solutions that include fire defense planning specific to each site. For years, we have been designing and building homes throughout California. By combining our architectural expertise and building experience throughout many of California’s fire hazard areas, we are able to provide our clients with an exceptional level of service that helps them navigate the rebuilding process.
Fire Defense Planning
As we embark on assisting in the rebuilds after the latest round of wildfires, our team utilizes a few basic planning and architectural design decisions to greatly improve the chances that Stillwater homes can survive future wildfires.
Advanced Site Planning
Before floor plans come into play, the initial planning strategy should be to create a buffer or defensible space of incombustible material around the home location. This buffer zone can be comprised of patios, driveways or low-growing fire-retardant plants. Special attention should be paid to the potential for extremely dangerous up-slope running fire areas. Site layout should include the planning of driveways and turnarounds that are wide enough to make it easy for firefighters to bring their heavy equipment close to your home. These planned driveways also act as a buffer.
Ignition resistant roofing, like metal roofing, can be the front lines of prevention. Both metal roofing and torched-down flat roofing provide a “Class A” rating. Class A is the highest rating, offering the highest resistance to fire. Special attention should also be paid to the substrate (the material on which the roof sits) classification.
Ember resistant exterior siding materials like cement board and stucco can be both preventative and be incorporated into various fast-track styles.
For an extended fire rating, think heavy timber. Metal may provide an early ignition resistance but it can also reach an earlier structural failure in high temperature. The density of the heavy timber structure can provides an insulating property to allow longer structural integrity thus keeping your structural envelope secure for longer time periods.
Overhangs & Undersides
Special attention should be devoted to the design and materials on the underside of overhangs – also referred to as soffits. This applies to the under side of cantilevers, balconies, decks, and underfloor areas as well. These areas are where the flames will be trapped and temperatures will be the highest. It is necessary to provide fire resistant materials, protection enclosures and structural integrity to these locations.
Windows & Doors
Windows are the weakest link in defending your building envelope, but there are several methods to strengthen these areas. Double glazed, insulated and tempered glass each add extra layers of defense. The most secure options are concealed roll-down or side recessed metal fire doors with automatically fusible link closure. They will protect windows and sliding glass doors even if they are left standing open. Fold-down panels or shutters on sloped rails can also be designed to close and latch automatically. And the glass panels can be wire glass or fire safety glass that can stay intact even though cracked by the heat.
Concrete and paving stone patios not only add an element of modern beauty, they are also helpful in fire defense. Another material to consider is Ipe wood (also called Braziilian walnut) which is a very dense wood and is naturally resistant to fire.
Railings, patios covers and pergolas can also be made Ipe wood or metal.
Garage doors are typically the largest opening into the home and pose a potential threat. Consider installing a metal panel door with an automatic fusible link closure. Detailed construction ensuring a tight fit to block the wildfire accompanying strong winds from blowing embers under the door is critical.
Electrical power can be out for weeks or months during a fire. And California power companies are now proactively turning off parts of the grid during high fire alert days to or during strong winds to prevent knocked down power lines from causing a fire.
Solar – With our homeowners high demand for solar we provide start to finish solar panel, battery storage, design, installation and coordination.
Emergency Generator – the addition of an emergency generator can help keep you up and running when power lines are down after your has home weathered the fires.
Fire Suppression Systems
Many jurisdictions now require fire suppression systems such as sprinklers. These can tend to be unsightly, but with careful planning and innovations we help to minimize their visibility creating a safe space that is aesthetically pleasing. In some cases water tanks or fire hydrants may also be necessary.