This is the question many are asking as they seek answers after losing their home to a wildfire. What can they do to avoid returning to a lone chimney standing in the ashes of their lost home? Must they rebuild with a structure looking like a bunker? The clear answer is no.
Harrison Woodfield Architects in fire-scathed Santa Rosa, California is at the forefront of home designs that resist wildfire destruction, while delivering the traditional grace and beauty of a well-architected home.
Sara Harrison Woodfield, the firm’s principal, has been designing such homes for decades, as she is reluctant to even consider a conventional wood-constructed home in the fire-prone Wine Country of Northern California. “Rebuilding a burned-down home with the same techniques that helped destroy it earlier, is simply not the way to go,” she states. “We have ways to make a home almost wildfire fireproof, using non-flammable and heat-resistant materials! And like the old wood-frame construction, these building techniques make the home earthquake resistant, as well.”
Woodfield goes on to say, “There is no reason to suspect a competent architect can’t design with the beauty and warmth of conventional designs when using fire-resistant construction materials and techniques.” To prove her point, Woodfield offers examples of just such designs.
Living and working in a city and county with entire neighborhoods turned to ashes, architect Woodfield points out answers to why whole streets of homes, with few trees as in forests, burn to cinders, one after another. She describes, “The combustible wood-construction homes, themselves, are even more dangerous to adjacent and similar-built homes, as the burning trees ignited by the wildfire. Burning far longer and much hotter than the neighborhood trees, those burning homes create such intense and lasting heat that adjacent homes are ignited. It’s a terrible “domino effect.” More than 500 homes have been destroyed in the most recent “Glass” wildfire.
And yet, a tour of rebuilt neighborhoods reveals most new homes being built use that same wood-construction of the homes they are replacing. The potential for the same domino effect is being established all over again. This needs changing, says Woodfield, “Wildfires are going to recur, and little anyone does will prevent that. We need to change how we build, if this beautiful wine country is to be our home.”