Stephen Quarles is an expert on how building materials perform and how different building designs fare in wildfires. For example, does the roof design make the structure more vulnerable to wildfires?
“I am interested in the durability of buildings exposed to fire and rain. When you can find ways to help a building survive several hazards, you can really argue the benefit of that feature. I like learning something new but it’s not fun when you learn from the suffering of someone, for example as the result of the loss of a home.”
His route to studying structures in wildfires started in the late 1990s. The University of California Forest Products Lab received a FEMA grant to study materials and building design and develop testing protocols that could be used by the California Office of the State Fire Marshal. Steve was the project manager. He studied the durability and performance of wood-frame buildings and focused on the exterior-use building materials, components and assemblies subjected to wildfire exposures.
After 26 years with the University of California, Steve joined the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) in 2011 as a senior scientist. His research and outreach focuses on wildfire protection for residential and light commercial buildings and improving the moisture-related durability and resilience of buildings following hurricane/high-wind events. He is the South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association Hazard Resilience Chair at the Research Center.
Steve earned a bachelor’s in wood science from Virginia Tech, and a master’s and a doctorate in wood science from the University of Minnesota. He worked for Weyerhaeuser in southern Georgia for several years. Steve is a member of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) where he is secretary for and task group chair in the E05.14 Subcommittee on Exterior Fire; the Forest Products Society, where it is Editor in Chief of the Forest Products Journal; the Society of Wood Science and Technology; the National Fire Protection Association, where he is a member of the Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection; the International Association of Wildland Fire and the American Wood Protection Association.
Stephen L. Quarles, Ph.D.
IBHS Research Center