Options Magazine, Summer 2022: California is known for sunny weather and beautiful landscapes. The dry, windy, and hot conditions that make California desirable, however, also make it vulnerable to wildfires.

In recent decades, wildfires have devastated much of California and led to new ways to battle this threat. One of the most important approaches centers around utilizing fire-resistant housing materials.

In her 2021 Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) project, PhD candidate Jennifer Richmond used multivariate regression analysis to test the hypothesis that Californian building code changes in 1995 and 2008 had a significant impact on the level of fire-resistant building class adoption throughout the state. The results showed that the building code change in 2008 might have had a broader impact in encouraging the adoption of higher-level fire-resistant home construction materials than the building code change for roofing in 1995.

“The risk of wildfires continues to evolve as climate change enables conditions that are hotter, drier, and conducive to more frequent and intense fires,” explains Richmond. “The goal of this research is to better understand empirical underpinnings of the relationship between higher classes of fire-resistant building materials used in home construction across different spatial and socioeconomic dynamics as well as building code enforcement and non-enforcement jurisdictions. Building codes meant to harden homes are an important part of wildfire resilience because evidence suggests that codes and standards—although by no means foolproof—can be effective at protecting property while also preventing further spread of fires.”

By Jeremy Summers