What would be the best construction materials for making a home fire resistant?
I am hoping to eventually build on a remote off grid property in Central Idaho and am curious what experts think about the optimal construction material for the job. I would like to purchase an eco-friendly prefabricated home, but in addition to being completely off grid, I am looking for a material that is highly weather and fire resistant. Wildfires are very common in the area, and I was looking at insulated concrete forms as a solution. All the prefabricated options I can find use a fair amount of wood, which I am concerned will put the structure at risk. Also, temperatures vary between -30 F and 100 F, and more than 10 feet of snow is typical.
Thank you in advance for your help.
The first step to building a home that is fire resistant is to ensure there is a significant fire break between your home and other combustible materials, be that trees or combustible out buildings like a wooden shed or garage. Fire resistant home design would then be a matter of selecting non-combustible building materials. Here is our page on fire resistant home design -
How to protect your home from fire
Here is a home building example that may offer some value - our first concept demonstration home was the Kenogami house in Quebec (a build that took place because the previous house burned in a forest fire so fire resistance was a priority). The home was not completely off grid but very close. It was called the most resilient house in North America by Alex Wilson, founder of the Resilient Design Institute and it also won a “most resilient home of the year award from Green Builder Media, so it may provide some valuable design tips for off grid ‘future proof home design’, you can read more here –
Kenogami House - the most resilient house in North America
Some ideas from the outside in starting at a distance would be – build the home at a safe distance from trees and shrubbery, have a good band of non-combustible surface surrounding the home like patio stones or loose river stones, that will protect it from burning trees and grass fires. Exterior cladding should be non-combustible like cement board or metal. To protect against falling ash and embers be sure to have a metal roof and soffit. A further level of protection would be fire proof insulation such as mineral wool behind siding.
Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply. I certainly plan on clearing adjacent timber and shrubs for protection as well.
Is there any chance you could share the design for the Kenogami house? Alternatively are you aware of any prefabricated options that are highly fire resistant?
Hi Tyler, very happy to help.
We don't have plans for the Kenogami house but we have a lot of content about the various systems. If you put "Kenogami" in the search bar at the top of the ecohome web page you'll find several other pages about it.
as for Prefabs, our low carbon footprint S1600 LEED Prefab kit house is mostly metal exterior, and we have others, you can see LEED and Passive House ready prefab kit houses for the US here, and we are hoping to have other models coming on line in the near future, though none are specifically designed for fire resistance and I don't know of any that are, I would suggest you pay attention to the exterior and material composition whether you are going prefab or designing from scratch.