With the rise of wild fires impacting towns, cities and major metropolitan areas across the country, the Insurance Industry is finally getting involved to examine building codes as it pertains to fire resistant building materials & construction methods. They’re probably tired of paying out claims for homes wrecked by fires year after year, so apparently someone with some G2 decided to look more closely at the codes, what is being required, and how much those requirements or building codes cost to comply with, and would you believe it, it’s not so bad after all.
I hear the rumbling and grumbling from builders all the time about the building codes and how it’s so expensive to build to meet the new criteria, particularly, fire resistant or fire safe construction. According to a recent article, it actually costs 2% less than traditional construction to build a single-family homes to meet the wildfire codes like that of California. You’re probably wondering how it costs less to do more, right?
It’s all about the assembly.
Let’s consider the exterior wall of your home. That is an important wall. Pretty much, that wall is designed to do a few things: (1) support your house, and (2) protect you from whatever is on the other side of the wall, fire included. Hopefully that wall was built to withstand that fire long enough for you to get to safety. So how can this wall be built to achieve an overall safer home? If your house is like most homes in America, including apartment buildings, condos, townhouses, etc., chances are the frame is wood. Wood is combustible – it will burn when subjected to fire. So in order to protect your wood-framed home, it will require some handy “components” to beef up the assembly.
Fire Retardant Treated Wood = Non-Combustible?
Did you know Fire Retardant Treated Wood (FRTW) can be used in some applications, such as fire-rated exterior bearing walls, that require non-combustible materials? True Story. This does not mean FRTW will not burn, it simply means that the fire treated wood has a delayed ignition time, flame spread and smoke development when compared to raw or untreated framing lumber, and can therefore be used in select applications where typically you’d see something besides wood. More technically, FRTW can often be used in place of noncombustible materials, for instance, exterior walls of Type I, II, III and IV buildings, and in roof structures of Type II and low-rise buildings of Types I construction.
Assembly. Tell me more.
ASSEMBLY = EXTERIOR WALL = drywall, wood studs, insulation, sheathing, exterior facade
As of right now, codes don’t typically require FRTW for single-family homes, but we do have FlameTech Fire Rated Wall Assemblies that can be used in your next job, and we can show you how our system will help you save money too! Now in your bigger Type-III jobs (multi-family housing), FRTW is absolutely used in interior & exterior wall framing. In single-family homes (most commonly Type-V construction) passive fire protection is commonly achieved by using gypsum wallboard of a certain thickness and an exterior facade of a certain type to help withstand fire and protect the combustible wood frame. Yes, sprinklers are an option too. Insulation type is also critical since insulation…. INSULATES. This insulating attribute we so enjoy during the hot summer or cold winter months helps keep wood members from absorbing all that energy from a fire in addition to the more obvious benefits.
Passive Fire Protection = FRTW. It does not require water or electricity to do its job, and can act on it own when subjected to fire.
What happens next?
For the moment, fire treated wood is not often seen in single-family homes. But you’d better believe that those days are coming. The insurance industry will soon begin making a lot of noise that the cost to build the right way with more resistant materials is much more economically viable for our country than to continue building as we are; it’s already begun. We have technology on our side, plenty of history with fire, and folks like us are constantly innovating to bring new fire resistant products to the market to better protect our homes and communities from the danger of fire.
“Insurers, safety advocates and disaster policy experts have urged state and local governments to toughen building codes — a move that’s often opposed by home builders over concerns it will increase housing costs, putting them out of reach of more potential buyers.” Source Article.