A California couple is set to move into a one-of-a-kind home later this year that will be resistant to wildfires.
According to Highways Today, a robotic arm 3D printer created by RIC Technology began construction in January on the state’s first fire-resistant, 3D-printed concrete accessory dwelling unit in the city of Walnut. The general contractor Builtech Construction Group is leading the design in collaboration with the city of Walnut and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Philips and Constance, a couple living in Walnut described as “eager to contribute to wildfire protection,” agreed to have Builtech erect a fire-resistant ADU in their backyard that will include two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.
“Seeing the state plagued by wildfires, we want to be part of the solution, too,” said Ziyou Xu, founder and CEO of RIC Technology, which is a pioneering 3D printing company. “This project can be the beginning of something meaningful — a wider application of 3D printed homes that are less susceptible to fires.”
In 2023, wildfires in California caused 323,025 acres to be burned and led to four fatalities. The previous year, the federal government spent over $4 billion in firefighting costs. However, suppressing wildfires is only half the battle, as communities continue to suffer from the damage for years.
“Fire-resistant homes reduce wildfire risks by enhancing resilience during a fire and speeding up post-wildfire recovery,” Xu said. “It significantly saves time and money in the recovery process if residents’ homes survive a wildfire.”
Per Highways Today, the ADU being built in Walnut will have exterior walls that are “3D-printed using concrete, a non-combustible material.” The roof “will be constructed with light steel and sure-boards, distinguishing it from other 3D-printed homes that often feature wooden structural roofs.” Builtech also will fortify the areas that are “traditionally vulnerable to fires, such as eave vents and windows,” also per Highways Today.
“The ADU will be built without a single piece of wood or nail — no ‘fuel’ on the main structure,” said Aaron Liu, CEO of Builtech Construction Group and a National Fire Protection Association-certified wildfire mitigation specialist. “So we significantly minimize the likelihood of fire entering the home, reducing its susceptibility to fire.”
In addition to using 3D printing, there are other methods that can create fire-resistant homes. Australian scientists have discovered that mycelium, the root-like structure of fungi, can be used to create fire-resistant cladding for buildings. A Colorado startup company is building modern homes using compressed earth blocks, which are incredibly fire-resistant and also offer benefits such as wind resistance and thermal mass, which help regulate indoor temperatures.
The hope is that the Walnut project will lead to more collaborations with local governments and fire departments to expand the development of more non-combustible, fire-resistant homes in wildfire-prone communities.
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