New building codes in Washington state intended to protect structures from wildfires are provoking backlash from builders, cities, and environmentalists.
Critics charge that the rules that are scheduled to take effect March 15 are confusing, will increase housing costs, and could cause too many trees to be cut down. The law’s guidelines apply to new construction and remodels, and require roofs, siding, decks, doors, windows, and other parts of homes to be made from fire-resistant material.
The law also requires “defensible space” between a structure and the surrounding vegetation. Defensible space ranges from 30 to 100 feet, depending on factors including building materials, water availability for firefighting, and road access near the structure. Trees planted in the defensible zone must be at least 10 feet apart and 10 feet away from structures.
Opponents say that the map that guides which areas are subject to the new rules includes too many places that are actually low risk. A building industry group estimated the new rules would add at least $4,300 to the cost of a home.