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A lightning strike started the Fuller Fire, which was located on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and consumed 14,541 acres in 2016. (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

UA Architect Searches for Building Blocks to Fight Wildfires

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UA Architect Searches for Building Blocks to Fight Wildfires

Nov. 14, 2017
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As legislators and ecologists grapple with solutions to wildfire prevention, help is coming from a unique source: the building industry. Aletheia Ida believes sustainable building practices can play an integral role in the future of prevention.

Aletheia Ida's design research focuses on emerging environmental building technologies for regionally adaptive material and energy systems. Specifically, her interest is in the pinyon pine forests of the Southwestern U.S. Despite being a relatively drought-resistant tree, the pinyon pine has been affected by multiyear droughts, which ... have created pockets of dead and dying trees -- perfect fuel for a wildfire.

She and Pierre Lucas, a professor in the UA Department of Materials Science and Engineering, are researching hydrogels with self-cooling and water-recuperating properties for energy-efficient, building-integrated cooling systems thanks to an NSF Early-Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) award.

If we begin to impregnate our exterior building materials with certain gels that would basically hydrate and self-cool, could we eliminate the possibility of the fire moving into the building? I think there's great potential."