This paper will be presented at the Facades 2020 Conference in Los Angeles, hosted by the Facades Technical Institute. Come by and see me there!
Abstract: California is set to be drier and more drought prone with climate change. Wildfire and the subsequent loss of life and housing is a huge challenge. Current WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) building codes address some reduction in flammability, but with the current buildup of the forests due to decades of complete fire suppression techniques, wildfires have been uncontrollable. Wood framed housing is the most prevalent building type for single family homes and is extremely vulnerable in the event of a wildfire. Rammed earth construction, which is far less flammable has been overlooked as a potential construction type for single family housing. Rammed earth walls have not been tested for a fire rating in the US or Canada, or a test to determine non-combustibility. Currently the building codes are being rewritten, including the codes for the WUI zone. The insurance industry in California is also reeling from the wildfires and has discontinued coverage for sometimes whole counties in fire zones. If the disconnected interests of the homeowners, home builders, insurance industry, and regulatory officials were to seriously look at rammed earth for replacement housing in communities destroyed by wildfire – the small fees required for testing this wall type wouldn’t seem insurmountable anymore.