Case Study: Resilient Water

Phyn Plus installed with Pro Squad installer

Climate change, extreme weather and an off-grid site prompts the VISION House Seattle Cascades team to address water from many angles.

C.R. Herro, owner of the VISION House, wanted to address fire resistance, not just by using noncombustible materials in the house construction, but also by using a fire sprinkler system. Turns out, it was required anyway because the remote location and siting of the house makes fire department service difficult.

The house is not on public water, so the team put in a cistern that is filled by rainwater and water pulled from the air by an atmospheric generator. The generator runs off a three-panel photovoltaic (PV) system and can pump out up to 80 gallons of water a day.

“With climate changes we are going to see more-robust sprinklers become standard in homes,” predicts architect Stace McGee. “In addition to the interior sprinkler system, we are exploring installing sprinklers on the eaves of the house. If there is a fire and Herro isn’t there, the sprinklers will turn on automatically or he can turn the sprinklers on with his smart phone. Herro can watch the level of water in the cistern to make sure it is used appropriately.”

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For the home’s interior fire sprinklers, plumbing and radiant floor heating, Herro selected Uponor. “The AquaSAFE combined plumbing and fire sprinkler system is a smart choice for this house,” notes Ingrid Mattsson, director of sustainable brand development, Uponor North America. “Having a combined system incorporates the fire sprinklers into the home’s cold-water plumbing. This ensures fresh water is always available if it is ever needed in the event of a fire.”

Mattsson notes that a combined plumbing and fire sprinkler system makes a lot of sense for builders. “With more jurisdictions across the country requiring fire sprinklers in homes, the AquaSAFE multipurpose system is a smart solution for builders. It can save on installation and materials costs compared to a separate plumbing and fire sprinkler system, and oftentimes the fire sprinklers can be installed by the builder’s trusted plumber already on the job.”

Mattsson says that it isn’t just the changing climate and wildfires that are prompting people to use fire sprinklers. It is also important to have them because of the synthetics in today’s home decor. Synthetics burn faster and hotter than natural materials.

“Smoke detectors are important, but fires happen so quickly in homes,” she notes. “Fires used to take about 15 minutes to flash over and now it’s three minutes. Fire sprinklers save structures, yes, but more important, they give you time to exit the house.”

When it comes to cost versus value, the fire sprinkler conversation often comes up, Mattsson says. “The reality is, fire sprinklers are like insurance: You don’t know its value until you use it. You pay for it and hope to never have to use it.” However, she notes, builders have an opportunity to differentiate their houses, particularly with the recent heavy press given to natural disasters: “They can say, ‘My houses are beautiful, well built and safe.’”

Learn more about the VISION House Seattle Cascades.