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Building to Last in a Changing World

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When the California wildfires threatened their Santa Rosa home, Jessica Lynn Link and Andrew Christian Johnson were certain their home was lost.

“I was actually in the house and I smelled smoke,” Jessica says. “We grabbed the dogs, then as we were leaving it was showering ashes on us. I knew the house was gone.”

“We came up here and everything was just black all around,” Andrew recalls. “And then we get up here and our house was, in relative terms, fine. Spectacular, even.”

They credit this minor miracle to their decision to use James Hardie® fiber cement siding on the house — a decision originally made for aesthetic reasons.

“I had a very specific look that I wanted for the outside of the house,” Andrew says. “The siding gave me that — plus the positive aspect of providing fire protection.”


This wasn’t an accident. “Our products don’t burn,” says Sami Rahman, vice president of product management at James Hardie Building Products. “The ingredients that go into fiber cement (sand, cement, and cellulose fibers) are all designed to deliver long-term performance in multiple conditions. Using our Engineered for Climate® platform, we’re able to protect against water, weather, pests, and fire.”

The durability of fiber cement is directly tied to its status as a very sustainable product. “I always think about it in two frames,” says Rahman. “What is the benefit for the homeowner, the consumer — it actually matters to them every day — and what are these products supposed to do on the wall, on the floor, on the roof — how does that contribute to sustainability? Using fewer resources, fewer materials, and having a longer life cycle to prevent or defer replacement — all of that contributes to sustainability.”

Photo: Courtesy of Kevin D’Emic, Malbro Construction

Across the country from Andrew and Jessica, another community can attest to the durability and sustainability of fiber cement siding products. Breezy Point, a community in Queens, New York, suffered through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, prompting architect Illya Azaroff and Kevin D’Emic, project manager at Malbro Construction, to choose James Hardie fiber cement siding for a recent home project there, citing its resiliency and impact resistance.

“When the storm first happened, there was talk about doing away with the community,” D’Emic said. “This home highlights the fact that Breezy Point is here to stay and will be for some time.”

Azaroff agrees. “Whatever you’re designing today should be designed with the future in mind. We built this house to last for the next 50 to 100 years.”


James Hardie backs their fiber cement siding products with a remarkable 30-year non-prorated warranty. That means less waste because homeowners will need to replace their siding less frequently. James Hardie products are also made from natural and recycled materials, unlike vinyl siding which is made from petrochemicals. It also resists rot and pest damage better than wood based siding. 

“Sustainability comes in a few areas,” says Rahman. “There’s designing a product that uses raw materials that are sustainable and are processed in a sustainable way. And then there’s manufacturing and transportation — using recycled water, making sure that our environmental management systems comply with best-in-class standards, and locating our manufacturing sites close to where the raw materials are and where homes are being built, to minimize our transportation footprint.”

That makes feeling good about the choice of building materials a little easier — but for homeowners, the key benefit might just be “future-proofing” their homes in the face of increasingly extreme weather. As Andrew Johnson notes, “James Hardie siding really helped keep our house safe through the fire.”

“It’s a win-win-win,” Rahman says, “from a consumer standpoint, a builder standpoint, and a sustainability standpoint.”

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