Wildfire season comes harder, sooner, and runs longer each year, and Californians up and down the state are perpetually in various stages of preparation for another barrage, expected to start up as the weeks count down to the end of Spring.
Here's how Wall Street Journal staffer Erin Ailworth sets up her "Winter Is Wildfire Prep Season In California" piece.
Forecasters expect warmer and drier weather in California heading into spring, which could cause grasses to dry out and lead to an earlier than normal start to this year’s fire season. The season used to take off around June but has been starting earlier and earlier for the past few years.
California’s wildfire season grew to nearly half the year in 2019, increasing the danger for the 27% of state residents who live in moderate to high risk areas.
“We have indicators that we’re drying out already,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
In the last three years, wildfires in California have burned more than 3.7 million acres, killed 150 people and damaged or destroyed roughly 35,200 homes, businesses and other buildings. Eight of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history and five of the deadliest have occurred since 2017—a year many officials consider the turning point in public perception of the danger posed by such blazes.
“You literally think about it every day,” Ken Pimlott, who retired as head of Cal Fire at the end of 2018, said of the threat. “We’re only going to continue to see these things grow, so people can’t let their guard down.”
So, while the lion's share of focus in new home construction and development has been on the effective date and domino-effect impacts of California's new solar mandate, it's new homes' resiliency that may play the bigger role as differentiator in the minds and hearts of potential buyers.
When it comes down to it, people look for safety, security, and their comfort at a primal level when they're on the home buyer's journey. It can't be far from their minds--these days--that protection not only from Mother Nature's direct fury but from the downstream consequences that put people into distress.
One of those downstream consequences that plagued hundreds of thousands of Californians over the past couple of years has been power outage--planned or unplannned--thanks to emergent wildfire conditions.
San Diego-based offsite builder Dvele--looking for a leg-up competitive advantage beyond solar power in its offerings--is looking to jump into this breach, promising buyers of its new homes they can be free of the energy grid--not if--but when they'll need to be.
Per a Dvele statement:
Dvele, a San Diego-based producer of modern, high-tech pre-fab homes, has announced that all of its homes will now be completely self-powered, thus providing a comprehensive solution that addresses climate change and power grid resilience. While California’s 2020 Solar Panel Mandate will produce more clean energy, Dvele is years ahead with its Self-Powered Home Initiative and leading the way to a housing solution that not only provides clean energy with solar panels, but also utilizes it so efficiently that homes can be grid-independent with a battery backup system.
Dvele executives say the design, engineering, and construction of both the enclosure and the systems set its homes apart from other new-home offerings that comply with California's new solar mandate. While a rooftop solar array and a battery backup system provide part of the solution to transferring energy load and self-powering, much of Dvele's focus has been on the building envelope itself, with particular emphasis on the stucture and materials to ensure robust management of thermal, air, and vapor barriers that impact home energy performance as well as indoor air quality.
Dvele's "homes are tested to meet the most stringent home efficiency requirements listed by the Passive House metrics and utilize advanced materials and assembly techniques that ultimately require their homes to utilize 84% less energy per square foot than a traditionally built home."
Leading the Dvele building science research and development effort is chief innovation officer Brandon Weiss.
"We're doing our walls, and sourcing windows and glazing in a way that allow us a far more robust air, water, and thermal barrier," Dvele president Matt Howland tells me. "With 2" by 6" dimensional lumber at 24" on center, we can fill the cavity with more insulation, and we've got R16-level exterior insulation as well. This is a key to how we can make our homes self-powered."