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Is a fire-resistant building a green buildng?

GBA Editor | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

If fire damage and or loss can be prevented or lessened by the application of a fire-resistant material, can that be considered a green condition? Less water to extinguish, reduced life risk, fewer fire trucks running pumps, fewer products of combustion.

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  1. Robert Riversong | | #1

    There's no correlation between fire resistance in residential construction and "greenness". Less than 3/10 of one percent of American homes burn each year.

    Some natural (i.e. very green) materials are flammable as are some non-natural materials, such as foam insulation, while completely fire-proof materials such as steel and concrete have high environmental costs.

    But there are ways to make a "green" building relatively fire-resistant. Using large wooden timbers instead of dimension lumber, using site-built roofs rather than manufactured trusses, using cellulose insulation (rated as a fire stop) rather than foam or fiberglass, using slate or tile or metal roofing materials - are all ways to improve a home's fire-resistance while keeping it relatively "green".

  2. Eugene Bidoli | | #2

    Materials used (such as foam agents) and buy products of the fire including contaminated water that flows into the sewer, products of combustion, exhaust from the fire trucks, the manufacturing of replacement materials for the structure, and other chain reaction events caused buy the fire all contribute to polution of air and water.

  3. Robert Riversong | | #3


    That's all true (I've been a volunteer firefighter for 30 years), but are you suggesting that because 3/10 of a percent of homes burn each year that we should build our houses out of steel and concrete?

    The leading cause of residential fire is cooking equipment, and the leading cause of fire deaths is from smoking. Perhaps we should eliminate kitchens and smokers. The second leading cause of fire death is heating equipment, so we could also eliminate HVAC to make our homes safer.

    Or... we could take better responsibility for how we use and maintain our homes and perhaps not build in forest fire regions. Common sense goes a long way, but it's the least common sense among people today.

    However, with fire danger in mind, it might be wise to avoid petrochemical foams, truss roofs, and I-Joist floors, since these all lead to fire-spread, smoke development and premature collapse. Insulating homes with borate-treated cellulose would significantly reduce fire damage and mortality.
    Make sure all homes have working smoke alarms, and all tight homes have hard-wired CO alarms (most CO calls we get are for new, efficient homes with direct-vent heaters). These measures are more sensible than building homes from non-flammable materials which don't meet any other "green" standards.

  4. Eugene Bidoli | | #4

    I am not suggesting that we build out of steel and concrete. There are coming on the market fire resistant paints and coatings that if applied properly and used in cojunction wtih sprinkler systems can reduce the fire by products along with all the other stuff I mentioned. Wildland Urban Interface issues should be better addressed. This could be done with better zoning laws by local Juristictions having authority. I too have been a volunteer firefighter for over forty years.


    We've recently started installing the Kidde Silhouette smoke and CO detectors with ten year batteries. they add about $150 per house but I like knowing that my homeowner won't be woken up a few months into their occupancy by a smoke detector with a bad battery and that I won't ever have to worry about them living with dead or missing batteries in their smoke detectors.

    Most of all I like knowing my homes won't be responsible for dozens of batteries ending up in landfills. Who knew there could be such a thing as a "green smoke detector"?

  6. Eugene Bidoli | | #6

    Long life batteries are a great idea. especially in economically depressed areas.

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