Architecture

If you go down to the woods: Gizmag’s Top 10 forest retreats

Gizmag gives the nod to 10 outstanding forest-based retreats
Gizmag gives the nod to 10 outstanding forest-based retreats
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Espinar House embraces the classic theme of an isolated cabin in the woods, but adds a modern twist (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
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Espinar House embraces the classic theme of an isolated cabin in the woods, but adds a modern twist (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
The distinctive property features a kitchen-dining room, living room, four bedrooms, roof garden, and a greenhouse (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
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The distinctive property features a kitchen-dining room, living room, four bedrooms, roof garden, and a greenhouse (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
Espinar House embraces the classic theme of an isolated cabin in the woods, but adds a modern twist (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
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Espinar House embraces the classic theme of an isolated cabin in the woods, but adds a modern twist (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
The home was built using inexpensive materials, such as a translucent polycarbonate facade and chipboard interior walls (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
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The home was built using inexpensive materials, such as a translucent polycarbonate facade and chipboard interior walls (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
Steel cables are affixed to the facade to eventually produce a green wall as plants follow their path (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
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Steel cables are affixed to the facade to eventually produce a green wall as plants follow their path (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
Black Magic House, by T2.a Architects, has a few tricks up its sleeve (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
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Black Magic House, by T2.a Architects, has a few tricks up its sleeve (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
Black Magic House is located on the edge of a Budapest forest (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
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Black Magic House is located on the edge of a Budapest forest (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
The prefabricated property was constructed in just two days (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
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The prefabricated property was constructed in just two days (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
It also sports a black UV-resistant membrane which was added to the exterior (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
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It also sports a black UV-resistant membrane which was added to the exterior (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
Black Magic House is located on the edge of a Budapest forest (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
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Black Magic House is located on the edge of a Budapest forest (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
Upstate New York-based Tower House was designed by local architectural studio GLUCK+ (Photo: Paul Warchol)
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Upstate New York-based Tower House was designed by local architectural studio GLUCK+ (Photo: Paul Warchol)
Tower House is a single-family weekend retreat which features a glass facade and a very unusual design (Photo: Paul Warchol)
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Tower House is a single-family weekend retreat which features a glass facade and a very unusual design (Photo: Paul Warchol)
Comprising four floors, the top floor of the property rests horizontally atop the main tower structure (Photo: Paul Warchol)
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Comprising four floors, the top floor of the property rests horizontally atop the main tower structure (Photo: Paul Warchol)
Interestingly, GLUCK+ cites Tower House's unusual design as helping reduce energy use (Photo: Paul Warchol)
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Interestingly, GLUCK+ cites Tower House's unusual design as helping reduce energy use (Photo: Paul Warchol)
Tower House (Photo: Paul Warchol)
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Tower House (Photo: Paul Warchol)
Kazakhstan-based Tree in the house, by architect and designer Masov Aibek (Image: A.Masow)
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Kazakhstan-based Tree in the house, by architect and designer Masov Aibek (Image: A.Masow)
Tree in the house is slated for construction in an exclusive area in the mountains which surround the city of Almaty (Image: A.Masow)
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Tree in the house is slated for construction in an exclusive area in the mountains which surround the city of Almaty (Image: A.Masow)
Though one can’t help run down a mental list of practical concerns regarding the Tree in house project, it shows so much promise that we’re keen to see it completed (Image: A.Masow)
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Though one can’t help run down a mental list of practical concerns regarding the Tree in house project, it shows so much promise that we’re keen to see it completed (Image: A.Masow)
It's main feature is undoubtedly the living tree placed directly in the center (Image: A.Masow)
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It's main feature is undoubtedly the living tree placed directly in the center (Image: A.Masow)
The unusual home is a simple structure consisting of a cylindrical glass shape and four floors accessible via spiral staircase (Image: A.Masow)
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The unusual home is a simple structure consisting of a cylindrical glass shape and four floors accessible via spiral staircase (Image: A.Masow)
The Tree Snake Houses, by RA Architectural and Design Studio, are a pair of identical units installed in the Pedras Salgadas Spa and Nature Park, Portugal
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The Tree Snake Houses, by RA Architectural and Design Studio, are a pair of identical units installed in the Pedras Salgadas Spa and Nature Park, Portugal
The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred
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The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred
Inside, each Tree Snake House sports a snug open-plan living area with kitchenette, bathroom, lounge and raised double bed
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Inside, each Tree Snake House sports a snug open-plan living area with kitchenette, bathroom, lounge and raised double bed
Solar panels, energy efficient LED lighting and a graywater system also make an appearance
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Solar panels, energy efficient LED lighting and a graywater system also make an appearance
The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred
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The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred
Several firms now offer tents which hover, hang, or perch, above the floor
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Several firms now offer tents which hover, hang, or perch, above the floor
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The Luminair Tree Tent stands out on account of its excellent design and ample home comforts.
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The Luminair Tree Tent stands out on account of its excellent design and ample home comforts.
The Luminair Tree Tent sports a hybrid aluminum and steam-bent green ash frame, with a waterproof canvas skin
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The Luminair Tree Tent sports a hybrid aluminum and steam-bent green ash frame, with a waterproof canvas skin
Able to fit two adults, it supports two folding side benches which become single beds, while optional extras include underfloor water storage tank and pump, battery pack and solar charger, and a bio-fuel stove
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Able to fit two adults, it supports two folding side benches which become single beds, while optional extras include underfloor water storage tank and pump, battery pack and solar charger, and a bio-fuel stove
The Luminair Tree Tent
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The Luminair Tree Tent
If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for
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If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for
The bubbles measure 4 m (13 ft) in diameter, and sport a ceiling height of 3 m (10 feet), so are definitely large enough to stand up in
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The bubbles measure 4 m (13 ft) in diameter, and sport a ceiling height of 3 m (10 feet), so are definitely large enough to stand up in
An airlock and silent blower keeps the space inflated, and ensures that the air inside is constantly recycled
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An airlock and silent blower keeps the space inflated, and ensures that the air inside is constantly recycled
The bubbles are equipped with a king-sized bed, table and chairs and related furniture, plus electricity and sink/shower area
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The bubbles are equipped with a king-sized bed, table and chairs and related furniture, plus electricity and sink/shower area
If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for
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If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for
Named after a Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
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Named after a Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
Based within the Snohomish Indian Reservation in Washington State, the attractive home by Zeroplus Architects is located right on the shoreline of a local fjord (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
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Based within the Snohomish Indian Reservation in Washington State, the attractive home by Zeroplus Architects is located right on the shoreline of a local fjord (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
Since destroying the local environment to create a cabin in the woods kind of misses the point, Zeroplus Architects used eight concrete disks, which serve to raise the cabin off the ground while only disturbing the wildlife less than standard concrete foundations (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
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Since destroying the local environment to create a cabin in the woods kind of misses the point, Zeroplus Architects used eight concrete disks, which serve to raise the cabin off the ground while only disturbing the wildlife less than standard concrete foundations (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
The local Douglas fir and Cedar trees were left as undisturbed as possible, helping to make the site feel unspoilt (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
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The local Douglas fir and Cedar trees were left as undisturbed as possible, helping to make the site feel unspoilt (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
Named after a Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
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Named after a Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
Inhabit is more spacious and luxurious (and probably more practical)
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Inhabit is more spacious and luxurious (and probably more practical)
Inhabit has enough room to house up to six occupants in style, with additional touches such as a wood-burning stove and soft rug furnishings
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Inhabit has enough room to house up to six occupants in style, with additional touches such as a wood-burning stove and soft rug furnishings
As the more ambitious and unusual of the two, Roost calls for several pod-like living capsules to be affixed directly to a tree
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As the more ambitious and unusual of the two, Roost calls for several pod-like living capsules to be affixed directly to a tree
The Roost concept
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The Roost concept
The Roost concept
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The Roost concept
Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest
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Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest
The 5 hectare (12 acre) park first began life as a farm and grew from there, over the years becoming filled with hand-carved oddities (watch out for the cars impaled on tree branches), rope bridges, and underground tunnels
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The 5 hectare (12 acre) park first began life as a farm and grew from there, over the years becoming filled with hand-carved oddities (watch out for the cars impaled on tree branches), rope bridges, and underground tunnels
The Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island")
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The Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island")
Each treehouse is styled differently
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Each treehouse is styled differently
Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest
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Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest
Gizmag gives the nod to 10 outstanding forest-based retreats
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Gizmag gives the nod to 10 outstanding forest-based retreats

From children’s fables to cheesy horror movies, the archetypical cabin in the woods has long provided inspiration for storytellers. This makes sense when one considers the unique experience that living isolated amid nature offers. With this in mind, Gizmag gives a nod to 10 outstanding forest-based retreats.

Below, we'll cover family homes, weekend getaways, holiday destinations, and a couple of less-practical concepts, too. Whatever its overall form, each building has the same basic goal in common: to offer its occupants a secluded and relaxing experience away from the stresses of urban life.

Espinar House

Steel cables are affixed to the facade to eventually produce a green wall as plants follow their path (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)
Steel cables are affixed to the facade to eventually produce a green wall as plants follow their path (Photo: Miguel de Guzmán)

The Espinar House, by Spanish architect and architectural photographer Miguel de Guzmán, embraces the classic theme of an isolated cabin in the woods, but adds a modern (and affordable) twist. The home features a kitchen-dining room, living room, four bedrooms, roof garden, and a greenhouse – the latter offering additional heat in winter months. Steel cables are also affixed to the facade to eventually produce a green wall as plants follow their path.

In a bid to keep construction costs low, the Espinar House was built using inexpensive materials, such as a translucent polycarbonate facade and chipboard interior walls.

Tower House

Comprising four floors, the top floor of the property rests horizontally atop the main tower structure (Photo: Paul Warchol)
Comprising four floors, the top floor of the property rests horizontally atop the main tower structure (Photo: Paul Warchol)

The upstate New York-based Tower House, by local architectural studio GLUCK+, is a single-family weekend retreat that features a glass facade and a very unusual design. Comprising four floors, the top floor of the house rests horizontally atop the main tower structure.

Interestingly, GLUCK+ says Tower House's unusual design helps reduce energy use. By placing the "wet zones" of the home – that is, the bathrooms, laundry room and kitchen – into an insulated central core, the architects claim a 49 percent reduction in energy use. During colder weather, a south-facing glass stairwell encourages warm air to rise into the central living zone.

Luminair Tree Tent

The Luminair Tree Tent stands out on account of its excellent design and ample home comforts.
The Luminair Tree Tent stands out on account of its excellent design and ample home comforts.

With the assertion that camping off the ground offers benefits like less bugs and removing contact with potentially cold and wet ground, several firms now offer tents that hang or perch above the forest floor. The Luminair Tree Tent is an example of this, but arguably stands out on account of its excellent design and ample home comforts.

The Luminair Tree Tent sports a hybrid aluminum and steam-bent green ash frame, with a waterproof canvas skin. Able to accommodate two adults, it supports two folding side benches that become single beds, while optional extras include underfloor water storage tank and pump, battery pack and solar charger, and a bio-fuel stove.

Black Magic House

Black Magic House, by T2.a Architects, has a few tricks up its sleeve (Photo: Zsolt Batár)
Black Magic House, by T2.a Architects, has a few tricks up its sleeve (Photo: Zsolt Batár)

Located on the edge of a Budapest forest, Black Magic House, by T2.a Architects, has a few tricks up its sleeve. The prefabricated structure was constructed in just two days, and the time elapsed between sending off the digital plans and the structure’s completion was only a week.

Like the Espinar House, the interior of Black Magic House looks barely finished, though this abode also sports a black UV-resistant membrane added to the exterior. The membrane is waterproof and helps protect the home (and its occupants) from the elements, as well as lending the home its moniker.

Tree in the house

The unusual home is a simple structure consisting of a cylindrical glass shape and four floors accessible via spiral staircase (Image: A.Masow)
The unusual home is a simple structure consisting of a cylindrical glass shape and four floors accessible via spiral staircase (Image: A.Masow)

The Kazakhstan-based Tree in the house, by architect and designer Masov Aibek, is a house both in the woods, and of the woods – literally. Slated for construction in an exclusive area in the mountains that surround the city of Almaty, the unusual home is a simple structure consisting of a cylindrical glass shape and four floors accessible via spiral staircase. Its main feature, though, is undoubtedly the living tree placed directly in the center.

Though one can’t help run down a mental list of practical concerns regarding the Tree in the house project, it shows so much promise that we’re keen to see it completed later this year.

Tree Snake Houses

The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred
The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred

The Tree Snake Houses, by RA Architectural and Design Studio, are a pair of identical units installed in the Pedras Salgadas Spa and Nature Park, Portugal. The prefabricated getaways boast a degree of sustainable-cred thanks to the use of natural building materials where possible, and steel support beams that allow the dwellings to be positioned with relatively little impact on the surroundings.

Inside, each Tree Snake House sports a snug, open-plan living area with kitchenette, bathroom, lounge and raised double bed shoehorned in for good measure. Solar panels, energy efficient LED lighting and a graywater system also make an appearance.

Bubble Hotel

If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for
If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for

If connecting with nature is your goal, then Pierre Stephane Dumas’ range of transparent bubble-based dwellings may well be what you’re looking for. This particular iteration, the Bubble Hotel, has been rolled out in several locations by the French Attrap’Rêves hotel in order to offer customers a more memorable sleeping experience than a conventional hotel room.

The bubbles measure 4 m (13 ft) in diameter, and sport a ceiling height of 3 m (10 ft), so are definitely large enough to stand up in. An airlock and silent blower keeps the space inflated, and ensures that the air inside is constantly recycled. The bubbles are equipped with a king-sized bed, table and chairs and related furniture, plus electricity and sink/shower area.

Sneeoosh Cabin

Named after a Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)
Named after a Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature (Photo: Zeroplus Architects)

Named after a Native American Swinomish tribe, the Sneeoosh Cabin is all about living in harmony with nature. Based within the Snohomish Indian Reservation in Washington State, the attractive home by Zeroplus Architects is located right on the shoreline of a local fjord.

Since destroying the local environment to create a cabin in the woods kind of misses the point, Zeroplus Architects used eight concrete disks, which serve to raise the cabin off the ground and disturb the wildlife less than standard concrete foundations. Additionally, the local Douglas fir and Cedar trees were left as undisturbed as possible, helping to make the site feel unspoilt.

Roost and Inhabit concepts

As the more ambitious and unusual of the two, Roost calls for several pod-like living capsules to be affixed directly to a tree
As the more ambitious and unusual of the two, Roost calls for several pod-like living capsules to be affixed directly to a tree

While most of the forest retreats we've covered here blend into their surroundings successfully, Antony Gibbon's Roost and Inhabit concepts are envisioned as actually becoming part of their surroundings.

As the more ambitious and unusual of the two, Roost calls for several pod-like living capsules to be affixed directly to a tree using a nondestructive bracing technique that allows for the trees to live and grow. Inhabit, meanwhile, is more spacious and luxurious (and probably more practical), and has enough room to house up to six occupants in style, with additional touches, such as a wood-burning stove and soft rug furnishings.

Kulturinsel Einsiedel

Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest
Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest

Located on the border between Poland and Germany, the Kulturinsel Einsiedel (or "Culture Island") is a lovingly handcrafted fun park set amidst the forest. The five hectare (12 acre) park first began life as a farm and grew from there, over the years becoming filled with hand-carved oddities (watch out for the cars impaled on tree branches), rope bridges, and underground tunnels – all of which must be navigated to gain access to one of the treehouse hotels.

Each treehouse is styled differently, and while it's seldom wise to throw out phrases like "genuinely unique experience" without good reason, we believe that in this particular case it's warranted.

What do you think?

That rounds out our pick of forest-based retreats. If you have any other favorites, or you reckon we've missed something glaringly obvious, please let us know in the comments.

5 comments
ezeflyer
The problem with living in the woods is fire. Forest fires are an important component of any forest. If small forest fires are not allowed to happen in order to protect houses, huge destructive firestorms like the Yellowstone fire will eventually occur. To live in the woods means that your house will be burnt and recycled periodically. Permanent houses in forests signal the demise of these forests.
Lee Grant
What about Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water", Stewart Township, Pennsylvania?
Cyberxbx
ezeflyer: "To live in the woods means that your house will be burnt and recycled periodically. Permanent houses in forests signal the demise of these forests." Not if your house is either A, fireproof, of B, underground... Deep, underground. Forest fires can reach in excess of 2,000F in worst case scenarios so it'll take a bit of work to make it fireproof although completely possible. Glass, and most ceramics easily surpass that temp, (being in the 2200-2800 range. We just need a way to cool the inside fast enough to prevent everything inside from burning.
Don Duncan
In 1985 my wife and I attended a weekend workshop on how to build a rammed earth house in northern CA woodland area. The houses had sod roofs where chickens roosted safe at night from coyotes. These houses would not burn and they were much cheaper to build because the main building material was local earth.
Slowburn
You can protect a building from a forest fire with a large cistern and a sprinkler system.