Specifying fire-resistant materials is only part of the strategy

Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) zones continue to expand because of ongoing population growth and urban sprawl, driving significant housing development into environments in which fire can move readily from forests and grasslands into neighbourhoods.

What about retrofits?

In some areas, it is not the new homes that are most threatened, but those built before codes were enacted or strengthened in their neighbourhood. This separation between new and existing homes causes difficulties for regulators. For example, if a home has a wood shake roof, it is challenging for regulators to ask for a retrofit. Homeowners may not have the resources or inclination to replace the roof with something that has a lesser tendency to spread flame. Insurance companies may become a more powerful driving force by asking homeowners to make fire-resistant upgrades to maintain coverage, but for now, the onus is on homeowners to make upgrades themselves—and on builders to recommend products and assemblies that can increase a home’s overall fire resistance.

This is the overriding message about building in WUI zones. Meeting code is not enough. Building for better fire resilience is voluntary. But as the built community works to improve awareness and understanding of best practices it moves closer to making this holistic and ‘top down’ approach to the new normal.

Rick Roos uses his expertise in fire safety, hygrothermal building performance, and acoustic control to bring a holistic approach to codes and standards development. As senior manager, codes, standards, and fire safety at Rockwool he works within the codes development process in the International Code Council (ICC) and Codes Canada. This role is complemented by his active membership across other industry organizations, including ASTM committee C16 on Thermal Insulation, ASTM E05 Fire Standards as associate member of CAN/ULC S700 Thermal Performance and Energy Use in the Built Environment, and as member of CANULC S100A committee on Fire Tests.

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