Ever wondered why most of the houses in US are made of wood, and not of brick and concrete? Why even after repeated natural disasters, US is not building houses using brick?
Fire rating: The Camp fire that broke out in Butte County, Northern California on November 8, 2018, destroyed about 18,800 structures. If these structures were made out of brick, could we have saved these houses or at least postponed the damage giving our fire fighters more time to put off the fire? It is estimated that losses from wildfires have added up to $5.1 billion over the last 10 years.
Destruction by California Wildfires as of July 31st, 2018
A CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) wall has a higher fire insulation properties compared to wooden frame wall. A CMU block has a fire rating of 2 hours which is upgraded to 4 hours if it is filled with filling materials. A typical wooden frame wall in comparison has a fire rating of about 1 hour. Insurance carriers have long term data suggesting that homes constructed of brick are less likely to be destroyed by natural hazards, making home insurance costs less with a brick home.
Fire Rating of CMU
Utilities Cost: Because of its mass, brick stores energy much more efficiently compared to wood. The U.S. department of Energy estimates an average of $340 per month or an annual expense of $4080 for utilities and a brick construction saves about 20% per year ? thats $816/year. These savings can be dramatic considering that an average American owns a house for about 8.7 years.
So if making houses of brick has so many advantages, why are we building houses out of wood?
For starters, wooden houses are much more affordable compared to brick houses. These houses are fairly easy to work with since the material is lightweight and much more flexible that brick. Wood can also be convenient in areas where erosion and silt accumulate, since wood is resistant to such corrosion.
US builders keep building houses with wood because it is the most inexpensive material, and they also lack the manpower and knowledge to take up this kind of work. Also, the labor costs are extremely high for using brick and concrete which will increase the prices of these already expensive US houses. Also the concept of tearing down a house every few decades and re-building them comes very naturally to people in US
Is this a price we are willing to pay to protect ourselves from a natural calamity?