In the aftermath of the devastating Santa Barbara Tea Fire which burned over 200 homes earlier this month, one story of survival has stood out. Residents Marlene and David Berry were shocked when they returned home following the horrendous fires to find that their home – which was right in the path of destruction – was still standing, despite nearly every home around it having been burned down.
It turns out the Berry’s have more than luck to thank. The Berry’s home was built in 2006 utilizing numerous green building techniques, many of which ended up helping to save the home from becoming a complete loss.
Some of the many green building features included:
• Drought-resistant landscaping• Selecting a radiant space heating system, instead of a traditional forced air system, to eliminate the need for ducting. Fires can spread throughout a home by traveling through HVAC duct systems.• Installing metal clad, energy-efficient windows instead of ones with wood cladding and single panes.• Building the home with 12-inch-thick exterior walls filled with cellulose insulation with an R value of 40. (R value refers to a substance's inherent thermal resistance.) The California Building Code only requires R-13 insulation in exterior walls.• Installing cellulose insulation in the roof with an R-value of 60 — California Building Code only requires R-19.• Properly sealing doors and windows throughout the house which prevented burning embers from entering the home.
The home had even received the Santa Barbara Contractors Association’s Best Green Residence Award in 2006.
What is even more amazing is even though the family had been evacuated in time, the family could have survived inside the home as the fire passed, despite temperatures reaching potentially as high as 1,000 degrees outside.
“After the fire, we checked our programmable thermostat when we returned to the house and found that during the fire, the temperature inside the house never rose above 84 degrees,” David explained. The Berrys’ home was also equipped with a fire sprinkling system that would have activated when the interior temperature reached 140 degrees, but it never did.