The wildfires were especially devastating in the city of Santa Rosa, where entire neighborhoods were leveled by fast-moving flames.
Better home construction couldn’t have prevented what happened, but it could ameliorate the impact of future fires.
In the United States, homes are typically made of two basic materials: wood and concrete. The former is very flammable, which could be why only certain parts of Coffey Park (a Santa Rosa neighborhood that was destroyed) houses – like brick fireplaces and concrete floors – survived the fires. The surface of concrete can burn as well if it’s covered in flammable materials, like varnish or plastic.
GigaCrete, a homebuilding firm based in Las Vegas, aims to make homes more fireproof. The company makes pre-fab homes – meaning its parts are produced off-site and assembled rapidly on-site – made from non-flammable, recyclable materials, like coal ash and non-silica-based sands.
As Forbes notes, the system’s construction process works like Lego blocks. Corner pieces and wall panels interlock using steel beams, which are also covered in GigaCrete’s special plaster.
GigaCrete also makes a non-flammable, proprietary varnish that is painted on the walls. When the material is layered on, the home becomes fireproof, bulletproof, waterproof, and super insulated, according to the company. The coating, called PlasterMax, is fire-rated, meaning it passed combustion and room fire tests.
GigaHouses are available to order throughout the United States, and a select number of international countries. Pricing varies, and the company recommends that interested buyers contact them to get an estimate. A 576-square-foot, one-bedroom home cost around $15,000 to build in 2011, according to Builder Magazine.
On the outside, GigaHouses are not the most attractive. But in the face of a wildfire, a home’s appearance becomes much less important than its durability.