There will be more devastating blazes in the years to come, but developers – in partnership with government and nonprofits – can build a more fire-resilient future
– Jim Heid, CRAFT Development
Jim Heid is a real estate developer and sustainable development advisor with CRAFT Development. In his opinion piece written for Reuters he raises several concerns about recent development trends that put our communities increasingly at risk under a changing climate and with worsening wildfire seasons. Heid points to increasing development in wildland areas and inadequate provisioning of affordable housing as two key exacerbating factors.
“Combined with the bigger, hotter fires of a changing climate, development at the forest’s edge has created a volatile situation – literally. The resulting wildfires affect everyone, but they take the biggest toll on households with fewest resources, who then have the fewest options when it comes to rebuilding,” Heid says. He emphasizes a need to rethink how we build, and cites some examples where this is already happening.
“Pepperwood, a Northern California research institute that manages a 3,200-acre field station, has become a living laboratory for wildfire resilience. In October 2017, the Tubbs fire — at the time the most destructive fire in California’s history — burned right through Pepperwood, causing the loss of all but one major structure.
Now, Pepperwood is rebuilding three structures with materials that are ignition-resistant, sustainable, and non-toxic. The new buildings have a mix of noncombustible metal exteriors and cement fiber panel cladding as well as cement plaster walls and dense black locust decking to reduce flame spread. The buildings also have zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) clay walls in some areas and in others, low-VOC paint.”