Specialists in fire resistance design + construction
Wild fires in southern California pose an increasing threat to structures in our region and while we can’t build structures that are fireproof we can build for fire resistance.
The envelope is the entire exterior of your home—including doors, windows, wall material, and roof material. Openings in the envelope compromise its fire resistant integrity We tightly seal the envelope’s primary openings, doors and windows and avoid non-required venting. Roof overhangs can also present risk in the absence of full enclosure and non-combustable material and amenities like a fireplace require chimney caps to reduce vulnerability to embers.
Creating an area immediately surrounding your home, separating it from nearby fuel is what we refer to as defensible space. We want to surround the building with materials like tile, pavers, concrete, gravel, and pebbles that can withstand falling embers and high radiant temperatures. Creating a strong defensible space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects your home from catching fire—either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important to allow firefighters to safely defend your home.
Location, location, location
How a building is sited is key to fire resistance and topographical concerns are paramount. Fires move up hillsides four times faster than when burning on level ground. Hot gasses rise in front of the fire along the slope face of a hill, pre-heating upslope vegetation which creates a faster burn and flames that are twice as high, siting your home back form the edge of a hillside won’t compromise views and gives us the opportunity to build in valuable defensible space
No strings attached
When we build in high fire zones we’re careful to not include any exterior combustable attachments. Exposed wooden pergolas decks and stairs create risk. Not all woods are created equal however. We source Brazilian Ipe that is fire rated and we coat the underside of decks with fire retardant Steel and concrete also allow us to build beautiful attachments that are significantly more fire safe.
Material to the issue
Our design team makes beautiful use of Stucco, tempered glass, aluminum, steel, fire rated wood and native landscapes to create environments that are both fire resistant and ascetically stunning.
At SweisKloss we’ve got a track record of fire resistant building practices. Fire resistance is all about buying time. We build for hours rather than minutes in the event of fire encroachment. We are fortunate to have world class first responders in Southern Claifornia and if we can buy them hours tp safeguard your home or business the chances of total loss decrease significantly.
Our work on fire resistance has been featured in:
The LA Times
As featured on dwell.com
Architect Abeer Sweis Shares Fire-Resistant Building Strategies
November 19, 2018
Case Study: The Hollywood Hills House
Real estate developer Robert Balzebre hired SweisKlosss to work on his 1960s home in the Hollywood Hills that was long overdue for updates. Acknowledging that the home is in a fire zone, Sweis took steps to fireproof the residence, in effect "creating a sealed envelope for the home." SweisKloss ended up stripping the house down to the studs and the foundation, replacing everything but the main structure.
Sweis chose non-combustible, fire-resistant materials that met the client's aesthetic needs. The home is wrapped in stucco, and its exterior features a boxy, contemporary design without vents or roof overhangs where embers could enter or become trapped.
The project is topped with a highly fire-resistant torch down membrane roof, and its aluminum windows are fitted with glass that is tempered up to 450 degrees. The outside staircases are made of steel, the pavers and tiles are made from concrete, and the decking and trim features a dense, naturally fire-resistant hardwood called ipe.
Fire-resistant materials can add an additional expense to renovations, but the benefits of using quality non-combustible materials are well worth it. "The city has guidelines for high fire zones, but I think that the codes are not strict enough for the types of fires that we are now seeing," says Sweis. "The most important thing is to constantly educate as many people as possible about the hazards of wildfires," she adds. "After a big fire, eventually things go back to normal and then it repeats. Malibu has burned before."