In the U.S., 4.5 million homes were acknowledged to be at high or extreme danger of wildfire, according to “2019 Wildfire Risk Analysis” by Verisk.

Firestorm devastation was initially mostly limited to the West Coast, but now it has spread across the southern portion of the country — as far east as Florida.

And what’s even more unfortunate is that the incinerated homes are being replaced with the same antiquated construction methodology that has dominated the U.S. construction industry for decades — wood. This means they will just as easily succumb to the next firestorm that comes along.

Homes do not need to be tinder for the wildfires plaguing much of the U.S.

The Devastation in California

In the March 2022, article “People Deserve to Know Their Houses Are Going to Burn,” The Atlantic notes that more than 50,000 structures in California have been destroyed by fire since 2016. The article continues: “These fires are only going to get worse” unless something changes.
California leads the U.S. in the yearly number and extent of wildfires. In an effort to address the situation, in February 2022, the California Department of Insurance released a new regulation requiring insurance companies to recompense proprietors that take action to guard their houses from wildfires.
While the U.S. is in many ways a world leader in technology, it is lagging when it comes to construction. Wildfires destroy entire towns, yet insurance companies repeatedly give homeowners money to build replacement homes with flammable material — wood.

Steel Frame Construction

Unfortunately, a cost-effective solution has continually been overlooked. Many white papers have been released indicating that an obvious approach to the challenge is to build replacement homes using cold-rolled light gauge steel (LGS) for framing instead of wood. Steel is extremely fire resistant and it is recyclable, virtually zero in carbon emissions, superior in strength, durable, inorganic, and economically priced.

Studies by HUD and Other U.S. Agencies

“The building industry is generally reluctant to adopt alternative building methods and materials,” states the 2002 whitepaper “Residential Steel Framing – Fire and Acoustic Details” released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research (HUD), in association with PATH (Partnership for Advanced Technology in Housing) and the National Association of Home Builder’s Research Center.
The whitepaper says: “fire and acoustical performance of cold-formed floor and wall assemblies are important considerations when designing residential and light commercial structures.”

Australia Research Unit Creates Firestorm

Australia historically has suffered from wildfires and as a result has become the leader in moving to a construction process that is very resistant to fire, not to mention earthquakes and hurricane force winds. It is estimated that upwards of 90% of the homes in Australia are built with LGS.
In fact, CSIRO, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, put a steel-frame home to the test. (See the complete test in this video.)

Construction Options

In CSRIO’s “Bushfire Best Practice Guide” only two types of wall construction are recommended: light gauge steel and solid cement. There are four options presented for roof construction: light gauge steel, packed earth, tile, and concrete. While concrete is listed for both options, its use has its own inherent challenges. The wall and roof thickness requirement adds excessive weight to the structure, the added material increases costs considerably, and, in most cases, it does not allow for a basement.
In the final analysis, all indications point to the utilization of cold-rolled, light-gauge steel not only for the studs, track, and trusses, but also for floor joists when a basement is desirable. It is typically designed to withstand both seismic and excessive wind loading situations. Plus the superior strength of steel allows for designs that are impossible with any other construction material.

Learn more about how cold-formed steel can be applied in your upcoming projects, by contacting our team today


Share This Post

Need prompt pricing for your next cold-formed steel project?