By Margaret Jackson | Jun 14, 2021
Castle Rock, Colorado
Wildfire protection systems
With Western states increasingly at risk of raging wildfires destroying homes and other buildings, one Colorado company has developed a system that can protect structures from out-of-control blazes.
Castle Rock-based waveGUARD's patented Exterior Wildfire Defense System automatically sends a wave of water over an entire home, creating a dome of water mixed with fire retardant to protect it from destructive wildfires. There are no staggered zones waiting to cycle on, so the home and surrounding area are covered completely all at once.
Lang got the idea for the company in 2011 when there was a fire at an equestrian center in Franktown and he scrambled to help people get their horses out. At the time, he was designing irrigation systems for his landscaping business. "I thought, 'What if I could put my sprinkler system on the roof and water it down," Lang says.
That sparked the idea of hooking up with HydroSystems*KDI owner and Vice President Ken DiPaolo whose irrigation consulting firm worked with planned communities, golf courses and large commercial buildings. Lang explained his idea to DiPaolo, who had connections that could help with the engineered drawings.
"I needed someone with an irrigation background," Lang says. "We needed a system where all the water would come on at one time -- a typical yard is zoned because you only have so much water."
He also needed pumping and control systems and a way to put fire retardant into the system. "Through talking with fire engineers and fire marshals, we've refined our system to where we weren't over-engineering it, but we feel like we have the best sustainable product on the market," Lang says.
When the team thought the system was completed, Lang built a website. He thought his focus would be in Colorado, but waveGUARD's first system was installed in Palo Alto, California. The company's business in California has continued to grow, and now it's working with architects, custom homebuilders and developers of master-planned communities to incorporate the system into their projects. The price of waveGUARD systems starts at $45,000.
The company has a 2,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that Lang says it's quickly outgrowing. It builds controllers in-house and sources pumps from an Arizona-based company and cabinets from a fabricator in Denver. waveGUARD then assembles all the components at its facility in Castle Rock.
So far, Lang is aware of two homes that have been saved by the waveGUARD system and one that wasn't. The house that burned had trees that were too close to the house, caught fire, and blew glass inside to start the fire in the garage.
"Wildfire is such a big concern in California that people are looking for some sort of protection," Lang says. "We can't guarantee saving their homes, but it will help."
Challenges: Supply-chain issues during the coronavirus pandemic has made getting the materials needed to build waveGUARD systems difficult.
Other challenges are cash flow and maintaining inventory. "We're a startup, and inventory is expensive, so we need cash flow," Lang says. "On top of hard-to-get parts, cash flow, and that sort of thing is probably the largest challenges that we face."
Opportunities: With all of the communities being built across the country -- and especially in California -- Lang sees endless opportunities for the company's systems.
"This is a billion-dollar industry -- especially in California," he says. "We haven't even gotten into other West Coast states such as Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Arizona. We're expanding. We're focusing on where the business is and taking care of those areas."
Needs: WaveGUARD needs investors to take it to the next level. "We need some operating capital," Lang says. "We have some companies looking at us now, but people are cautious. The opportunity of developing a new industry is very exciting, but things are uncertain because of COVID."