Another alternative to wood is steel, though its use in residential construction in the North Bay is not yet widespread. Wellington Cellars in Glen Ellen, which produces small-lot, handcrafted wines, used steel for its new building. “We’re seeing more steel construction,” says Joss Hudson, president and founder of EcoSteel, which is based in Laguna Niguel, Calif. and has an office in Santa Rosa. According to Hudson, the use of steel in construction is a slow process because it requires specialized knowledge. Local steel unions and the American Institute of Steel Construction provide training, and as more workers acquire the necessary skills, the use of steel as a construction material for houses is likely to increase.
EcoSteel is a Type 1 construction material, so it has high resistance to fire, up to a point. It will buckle in the ultra-high, sustained temperatures like those the Tubbs Fire produced; however, it’s not combustible, so it doesn’t provide the fuel that allows fire to travel. Among its other advantages, it doesn’t sustain water damage or rot like wood, and it doesn’t attract termites. In addition, much of the steel for construction is recycled, and EcoSteel uses an insulated panel system for walls and roofs, so it’s energy-efficient.