High School Hut to Hut

Practical understanding:

Students from at least three high schools enroll in a CTE construction or STEAM, project-based course to build a “high school hut-to-hut” experience.  Over the course of one year (preferably) they design and build hut accommodations and decide on a trail system on which to place them. The huts may be tiny homes with bunks for sleeping accommodations.  Plumbing and electrical systems, if any, is based on where the shelter is placed.  The trail system will attempt to incorporate as much natural land as possible.  The routes will be determined by the participating schools.  During a weeklong “trekking event” at the end of the year, students and adult chaperones will travel from one school’s shelter to the other.  This is an epic undertaking as it is traveled only by human powered means; by foot, bike, or boat. This culminating event provides students an opportunity to participate in a “hero’s journey,” leaving their home schools and returning with new perspectives and stories to share with their peers.  

3 Guiding Principles:   

Land Literacy: 

  • gaining an understanding of the natural geographical features of our homeland

Design Literacy:

  • learning to work and design with others
  • Deciding on and adhering to a guiding “ethic” or intention for the project

Practical Skills Literacy

  • learning to build a tiny home (or some other type of movable shelter) 


In following Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Framework, curriculum will support students to consciously experience what humans need to survive and thrive:  food, water and shelter, safety, relationships, respect for oneself and others, and opportunities to realize one’s full potential.

  • September & October:  “The basics:”  food, water, shelter – introduce idea, decide on routes and design tiny homes; question traditional tiny home designs, consider alternatives, acquire materials
  • November & December:  Safety:  security and stability – vet routes, delegate jobs, find expertise, build shelters
  • January & February:  Relationships: sense of belonging – build shelter, develop relationships with landowners and other support, establish an “ethic/intention” for all participants
  • March & April:  Esteem/self-compassion:  respect for yourself and others – physically train, reflect
  • May:  Self-actualization:  realizing your full potential – weeklong, “hero’s journey” trekking event

Why? To empower youth to design and build basic infrastructure (transportation systems and housing) specifically intended to connect them to themselves, the land, and each other.  It starts with building agency, a can-do spirit to create better and more sensible living conditions starting with the basics:  where and how we travel, where and how we design, build, and live in shelter, and where and how we acquire food.  These early experiments of creating high school hut to hut trail systems throughout the country may have a spillover effect on transportation, housing and food systems of the future.   

Youth reportedly have higher levels of anxiety and depression than ever before and lack the resiliency for a changing world.  They report a desire for more hands-on learning like building and spending time in nature.  This project may provide them with much of what they are craving and needing:  a sense of agency, hands-on, more fully-embodied and transformative experiences/rites of passage, opportunities to experiment and make real-world change, a sense of belonging, authenticity, deeper connections to themselves, others and the land/nature/their community, and more time to be able to engage in these ways.   

Who we are and what we’re offering?  The project is being led by Sara Poisson, passionate nature lover with an eye for connecting the dots. US Green Building Council Redwood Empire Chapter (USGBCREC) is supporting this experimental program. The USGBCREC vision and mission is to improve the quality of life by transforming the design, composition, and operation of the places where we live, learn, work, and play within the short space of a generation. As a North Bay based non-profit USGBCREC will provide guidance on building the partnerships, donations, sponsorship, and/or expertise from the building industry to help this project succeed. Many of us are architects and have affiliations with the building industry. The project is also supported by Camino de Sonoma, an organization that conducts multi-day pilgrimages across Sonoma County. We are hoping to find at least 3 interested schools/teachers willing to meet throughout this school year to build this program; much of the design of the shelters and trail system are determined by the locations of participating schools. Next school year we hope to implement it within the schools.

Interested?  Contact Chris Catelli, Sonoma County Office of Education, (707) 524-8417 or ccatelli@scoe.org

Bruce Hammond Interview with Claudia Cleaver (REC-USGBC)


1.The science and practice of green building has changed since you first built your own sustainable house at Oak Springs so many years ago. What are the most exciting changes you see in the field and what would you change about your own house?

Sustainable building practices and opportunities for green construction solutions have come a long way in the last 25 years. The US Green Building Council has done much of that heavy lifting through the development of, the education on, and the application of the LEED standard across all classes of building types and the multiples of buildings in their campus wide application of the LEED standards.

Broad and deep technical developments have come to market and bright and creative engineering & design professionals have brought forward important new directions like the Passive House Standard, Zero Net Energy homes, building materials ratings & certifications, material de-carbonization strategies, and important integrated methodologies like the “Living Building Challenge” have come into more widespread understanding and application. These are potentially world transforming bodies of knowledge, if applied more and more broadly.

What has worked well and what have you or would you like to change about the home at Oak Springs.

The house at Oak Springs I built in 2000 as a clear example of integrated green design and construction and was inspired by residential design examples I saw at the first NAHB Green Building Conference in Denver Colorado in 1999. Following that I had the opportunity to dive into conversations with the George Beeler AIA, a highly creative and skilled local green architect. Inspired by his use of design phase energy modeling,  the use of trombe walls, and the sustainable concrete mixes he had employed in the design of the Environmental Technology Center at Sonoma State University, George assisted me with consultations to integrate these sources of inspiration into the development of our home.

I had already built passive solar homes prior to that time and found those principles easily integrated into the Oak Springs design process as the key drivers, envelope, orientation, thermal mass, good glazing, and well planned roof eave overhangs. The house was a great and very energy efficient building and a well-rounded example of the deployment of each of the parts of integrated green design; sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, materials and resource conservation, & indoor environmental quality. It is also a very comfortable home year round, based on the implementation of fundamental active and passive solar design strategies.

To get the the tight envelope and high thermal performance of the envelope I made use of structural insulated panels ( SIP’s) which are made with high embodied-energy virgin hydrocarbon sourced polystyrene foam insulation material. Many other options for well insulated building envelopes are available as alternates to this approach currently and in other projects since Oak Springs we have moved more and more toward those so as to reduce the use of foam insulations and the hydrocarbon use associated with them.

2.You have completed many green houses in your career. What have been some of your favorites and what was it about them that you especially liked? What would you have made better?

These 3 homes readily come to mind out of many-

Sonoma Valley Straw Bale HomeLEED Platinum Award – USGBC

This project was awarded “Home of the Year” from Green Builder Magazine for excellence in Site Integration. This resulted from clients who loved the land where their home was built and the close conversations among the landscape architects, Sentient Landscape Design, and the owners and the overall design team headed by DSA Architects. As a gardener myself since a young age the most satisfying thing for me following a construction process is to see and experience the re integration of a construction site into a lovely tended natural landscape – nesting the home into its surrounding environment and creating spaces for the many layers of native species once again. This project accomplished that amazingly well.

The project also enjoyed solid support from the owners for a truly integrated design team approach in it’s design and construction development process. Regular meetings to analyze and develop layered solutions to all areas of the design while integrating feasibility and budget ramifications made for a challenging but very satisfying process overall.

Nicasio Passive Solar –

This project had a variety of innovative green design technologies employed throughout and was designed by Schwartz + Associates. Notable was the use of an “Ice- house roof” design which placed a corrugated corten roof surface above a ventilated space as a kind of heat deflecting shield above the entire roofed area. This considerably lowered high summer temperature effects on the building. There were integrated thermal controls to share heat from the solar hot water panels at the house with the swimming pool in the summer. Much of the materials from an earlier home and barn were salvaged for reuse.

There was a down-side that arose due to the less than perfect ability of design stage thermal modelling to predict actual built performance.  The home was heated hydronically using an air sourced heat pump which ended up being under powered for the actual heating demands due to the large window areas and high thermal mass. This resulted in difficulty raising the inside temperature if it fell below 60 degrees in the cold season. The heating system design was later modified for better performance.

Petaluma Health Sanctuary –

This project also resulted from a very well engaged design development process focused on integrated solutions for a client with severe multiple chemical sensitivities. The result has created a “safe haven” for him. Working with Paula Baker Laporte, a noted green architect with a focus in the field of healthy homes, we worked over a 6 month period in the early design phase to vet best practices & solutions and overall materials compatibility for this client.

We eliminated underfloor crawl spaces in favor of a “waffle matt” structural slab foundation to avoid any condition which might develop mold. The structure of the home was build with Faswall blocks – an eco friendly insulated concrete forming system made from recycled pallets with a core of reinforced poured concrete. Finishes over that were natural haudraulic lime plasters, American Clay plastered walls at the interior, natural paints, exposed radiant heated concrete floors and a sophisticated Zehnder heat recovery ventilation system with additional micro filtration at the air intake and a recirculation setting for fire season protections. All this was done as a budget driven process and was quite challenging but also very satisfying overall.

Occidental Straw Bale –

This is a current project and is very satisfying as an example of well integrated green design and construction. It is a passive solar design by Arkin Tilt Architects and has a focus on the decarbonization of materials. We developed a very low Co2 emissions slag-cement concrete mix design that is tailored to this project. The project uses a combination of rammed earth blocks, double offset 2x framing, and straw bale for its wall systems. The framed walls and overhead cathedral ceilings are cellulose insulated with an exterior Gutex insulation layer overhead. We employed a thorough air sealing approach throughout the building and have an air to water heat pump system for the hydronic heating in the floors.  The on-site stormwater management is accomplished by using a natural landscape approach that employs several large underground water infiltrators below the dry stream surface features. The overall planting and site design was by Sentient Landscape.

3.Has your emphasis changed in creating a green residence? Do you focus on other things now?

These elements of building construction and management are in my attention always these days –

Durability still remains primary – let it all last as long as possible through the right materials selections installed correctly and with thoughtful care.

Envelope air sealing and how to do it thoroughly but economically- Learn that well and the conditions where it is appropriate and needed. Learn about moisture/ vapor diffusion and where it is appropriate and needed.

-Embodied Carbon – Collectively we have a pretty good handle overall with operational carbon impacts in the built environment in the US ( mostly). Now our use of high embodied energy materials needs very careful scrutiny and cost/benefit analysis.

1) We need to reduce the pounds of Portland cements in each cubic yard of concrete to the absolute minimum while still getting good durability and performance.

2) Design less concrete volume into the project to begin with.

3) Avoid steel based structural solutions where at all possible in favor of wood LSL’s / LVL’s / Glu lams etc.

4) Use the best glazing system possible (and the least of it possible too !)

5) Avoid hydrocarbon based foam insulations in favor of natural materials, cellulose, and wood based board insulation materials like Gutex.

Quality Control -with materials, subcontractors,  the construction crew and at all levels is an ongoing critical concern which needs attentive care.

-Budgets -meeting client budget goals – considering various options for a solution.

-Communication- There is no substitute for good, skillful, timely communication.  To the clients, to the design & engineering groups, to vendors, to subcontractors, and to the construction team. Regular meetings  are key !

Do you use any rating systems now – LEED, Build it Green, Passive House etc?

With tight budgets currently, even with building at the high end of the marketplace, the added cost of a LEED rating has not been a priority for recent clients, even on some otherwise deep green projects. We have done LEED Gold and LEED Platinum projects, as well as several Green Point Rated homes over the last 20 years.

 Have you found California’s T-24 energy code and Calgreen helpful in pursuing green building? What else is needed?

California’s T-24 energy code is a leadership standard that continues to evolve and to pull other state’s codes along with it, which is great. But even though it is a high bar, it is still the minimum standard and should be overshot as much as possible on each project. That is always a result of a wise integrated design approach and does not happen by adding technology and solar panels after everything else is established through a completed schematic design. It needs to enter the design from the start.

Cal Green is similar, and focuses us all on managing resources efficiently by the documentation of waste that is generated through construction, which is an enormous issue. Our recycling efforts and closing resource loops in the supply chain is largely un-addressed in the marketplace. More needs to be done through consumer education and regional and municipal advocacy to close loops and illustrate alternative approaches & materials uses. Manufacturers also need to re integrate waste materials into new products.

Do you find cost an impediment to creating a green residence?

Green building does not “cost more”- poor and unskillful planning costs more ! There are clear examples of very green “production homes” done in the central valley as low-cost housing. Designing a green home needs to be  undertaken right from the very start of design and a realistic budget needs to be set. To be truly useful and not cause client disappointment and project disruption following a completed design those budgets need to be current.

They need to clearly and separately distinguish the “soft costs” of architecture fees, engineering consultant fees, a builders pre-construction consulting services and permitting fees. They also need to separate Site Development and direct Construction costs. A responsible budget will inform the client of all these commitments up front, since the “construction cost per square foot” numbers that get thrown around are mostly very vague about what is included. This takes several rounds of focused work starting from a rough order of magnitude budget work up, based on past projects, and then working toward a clear and focused final construction budget based on actual project specific take offs and subcontractor proposals. That can make all the difference to correctly set client expectations and a project’s success right from the start.

What trade offs do you run into?

Quality of material selection is the most extensively adjusted element in all project budgets. With so many budget line items in a construction project each one can be inflected toward higher or toward lower quality/cost.

People most often focus on bringing down the highest individual budget numbers and yes, that is important, but the incremental costs of cabinetry and shelving, tiled areas, plumbing and lighting fixtures can really add up to a large number so they are worth looking at carefully. Windows and doors are commonly adjusted in a budgeting process. Paying for fewer high performing windows is better than many lower quality ones and will most likely save energy and possibly even overall cost.

For example – Higher quality windows and good building orientation will lessen the costs of a mechanical system and the long term building maintenance and energy costs.      This is a big and complex topic J

6.What is your experience with;

Straw bale- We have used straw bale in 2 high quality homes and consider it a great carbon sequestering enclosure/ insulation solution. As a locally available natural material it is at the top of the list for an ecologically appropriate building material.

Bamcore – We have not built using the Bamcore system, though I have known about it for many years. I consulted with the original engineer and development team to direct their attention out into the green building community for connections with resources and to gain necessary attention . They have gained a lot of funding and standing at this point and I am glad for that. Bamboo construction has most of the best attributes of straw bale and can be a good structural material as well.

Exterior insulation- We have done several projects where an exterior insulation layer has been incorporated. These are multilayered systems and need to be done carefully so that the shell lasts well and insect entry is controlled. Breathability and vapor open conditions need to be well considered. Our climate region is mostly very forgiving.

Panelized construction – We have used panelized construction on a couple of projects over the years. There are many versions; from rough framing and shearwall only, to versions that are completely detailed and finished walls with plumbing and wiring in place. To use it successfully is always a matter of pre planning well and the timing of the order so that the start of construction is not delayed once the foundation is ready for the building construction.

Favorite window manufacturer – Loewen!

Heating cooling systems- SpacePak air to water heat pump systems for hydronic heating  – also  -zoned air sourced heat pump systems

Insulation types – Blown in cellulose, Gutex board insulation, Roxul mineral wool

Do you have special favorites or anything you are excited about –

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) ! –  Carbon sequestering structural system with finished interior wood walls and very few overall pieces in the shell of the building- a prefabricated shell. The aesthetics and relative simplicity of this system is very appealing system to me. I look forward to seeing this more widely deployed in residential construction.

6. Are you hopeful that we can make significant climate response through green building and what do you think would make the most positive impact on climate change?

Green building has an enormous role to play in changing the trajectory of environmentally damaging construction practices that are so common in typical construction methods. We have gained ground in recognition of the huge role that “Building Science“can play in improving longevity/ durability, health and energy efficiency. Even so, the rate of adoption of deep green solutions is way too slow and needs to be set into wider incentivizing frameworks, like municipal level and statewide requirements similar to the Title 24 energy standards and Cal Green. Integrated transportation solutions and low carbon city planning is essential to concentrated population centers which have such enormous influence in wider society. De-carbonization of the most widely used building materials is essential. This is to a very great extent dependent on the many design professionals currently practicing. Their education in and advocacy for comprehensive ecologically appropriate solutions is crucial and needed now more than ever.

Realistically we are in trouble that is fast approaching and we need to be adaptive beyond our historical imprinting- the current weather patterns are telling. Sea level rise is accelerating from the decimation of the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves and our timeline has become more narrow to get best practices and effective solutions more widely in place. I remain concerned for our childrens lifetimes and the generations that follow them and what they will be facing-

Sorry to close on such a dire note but it is true and should motivate us actively !

Retrofit Guide for Hardening Your Home

What are the specific things to be done when you want to retrofit your home for fire safety? There’s a guidebook that outlines the specifics of what to do.

FIRESafe MARIN was awarded a grant by CSAA Insurance Group to develop a custom home hardening education program and guidebook for California Residents. The Retrofit Guide available here for download is courtesy of IBHS, the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety, and is the top resource available today for homeowners interested in retrofitting existing homes. Research and post-fire assessments have shown that property owners can protect their homes and businesses against wildfire by addressing three clear sources of vulnerability:

  • Materials and design features used in building the home or business
  • The landscaping vegetation located immediately adjacent to the home or business
  • The general vegetation and other combustible materials and items on the property surrounding the home or business.

Each of these sources can be dealt with through maintenance, appropriate choices in building materials, design improvements, and vegetation management.

Here is the link to the full article: https://www.firesafemarin.org/retrofit-guide

Rethinking How We Manage Forests

Here in Sonoma County, it was not until 2017 that we began to really dread October and November as “Fire Season”. Now when the wind blows strongly out of the North East we feel hyper alert, remembering the traumas of recent Autumns.

We wonder, “Why are the fires so much worse? Is it only the result of climate change, or is it forest management too?”

An article last September in The Washington Post, by Matthew Hurteau, associate professor of biology and director of the Earth Systems Ecology Lab at the University of New Mexico, cast some light on this topic.

Dr. Hurteau argues that “Fire Season” is a result of both factors. “The wildfires burning in the West are as large, hot and fast as they are because of climate change, as more heat and less water make vegetation more flammable.” And at the same time, in the dry forests of our coastal ranges, “there is too much fuel as a result of a century of fire suppression. Before then, these forests burned (less severely) with some regularity.”

“For years, even as the fuel built up, it remained pretty easy to put out significant fires, because the West was wetter and cooler than it is now. Beginning in the 1980s, however, as temperatures rose, the area susceptible to wildfires in the West began to spread. There were more crown fires in dry forests, and the problem grew significantly worse over the next three decades.”

Here is the link to the full article:

Fire Ecology and Wildfire Risk Reduction

Fire ecology is a scientific discipline that “focuses on the origins of wildland fire and its relationship to the environment that surround it, both living and non-living,” (source: Pacific Biodiversity Institute).

Climate change (which is causing more extreme heat, droughts, and other adverse conditions) is affecting the fire ecology of many western states, including California. States, municipalities, communities, policy makers, builders and designers, land owners, building owners and homeowners, and residents all have a part to play in helping reduce the risk of wildfires spreading into built environments and in creating fire-adapted, resilient communities and structures.

How to Help Your Home Survive a Wildfire

Now that wildfires are occurring with increased frequency in Northern California, people are asking “What can I do to help my home survive a wildfire?”. Whether you are building a new home, adding on to an existing home, or rebuilding from a previous fire, there are some basic things to know about building in areas that are within a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area.

  • The selection of building materials and designs to improve the ability of your home to survive a wildland-to-home fire spread, according to Steven Quarles, includes: 
  • Maintain roof covering and replace with Class A when necessary
  • Remove debris from roof and gutters
  • Make sure the eave area can resist ember and anticipated flame exposure. Modify near-home vegetation as necessary.
  • Install multi-pane tempered glass windows
  • Remove combustible materials from under decks and use compliant decking.
  • Develop vegetation management plan and maintain selected plants and vegetation with adequate irrigation and removal of dead material. 

 “A wildfire-safe home must be an ember-resistant home, so that even if the flames do not reach your home, it will be able to withstand exposure to embers that may have been blown a mile or more in front of a wildfire. To provide maximum wildfire protection for your home, a combination of near-home vegetation management, appropriate building materials, and related design features must be used”.

Here is the link to the full article:

Building in the Wildland Urban Interface

As our Autumn “Fire Season” grows longer and more intense, we see an increasing interest in stopping the building of new homes and other structures in the Wildland Urban Interface.

Climate Change will continue to exacerbate the intensity of fires, and no amount of “hardening” structures will enable them to survive raging fire storms. 

Nonetheless, who wouldn’t want to live in a rural area, surrounded by natural beauty?

An article last September in the NY Times by Christopher Flavelle, offers some interesting insights into shifting public opinions about restricting building in flood or fire-prone areas.

He writes, “Eighty-four percent of respondents, including 73 percent of Republicans, supported mandatory building codes in risky areas, and 57 percent supported making it illegal to build in those areas. More than half of respondents favored paying people to move, including three-quarters of Democrats.”

“As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, decisions about where and how to build have become increasingly important. If local governments continue to allow homes to go up in places most exposed to climate change, such as coastlines, floodplains or fire-prone wilderness, experts say, it will make generations of current and future residents more vulnerable to worsening hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other disasters.”

The article describes the competing forces of public safety, tax revenue for rural communities, and the building industry. Link here  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/climate/flood-fire-building-restrictions.html 

Another approach to this problem is the use of greenbelts, which provide a buffer for wildfire between open space and housing. The town of Windsor provides some great lessons about this strategy, as discussed in this link from Greenbelt.org  https://www.greenbelt.org/blog/wildfire-greenbelts-saving-sonoma-county/ 

Deputy Fire Chief Matt Gustafson of the Sonoma County Fire Protection District said, “We know that greenbelts coupled with the correct fuel management practices like prescribed burns and healthy groves, serve as buffers. Along with open space, this includes agricultural areas, vineyards, pastures, golf courses, and grazing lands. We are fortunate that in Windsor a majority of our urban growth interface has these buffers.”

“Multiple firefighting professionals, fire ecologists, and non-profit organizations are working together to reduce wildfire risk in greenbelts and the wildland-urban interface through defensible space, prescribed burns, vegetation management and best forest management practices.”

Clearly, our local government agencies are learning and adapting to meet the increasing challenges of wildfire in an era of climate change. 

Fire Ecology Articles

by Miriam Landman

I’m a resident of Sonoma County, and like most North Bay and Northern California residents (and indeed the residents of most western states and many other parts of the world), I have been adversely affected by the ever-worsening wildfires and ever-longer fire seasons we’ve been experiencing these past few years. The regular and explosive fires, evacuations, red flag warnings, power outages, dangerous smoke in the air, apocalyptic skies, and mass disruptions to work and life in general have taken a toll on all of us. And many of us know people who lost their homes and their sense of security—and became climate refugees, facing displacement and years of insurance headaches and nightmares—because of these fires. I have some good friends who went through this trauma due to the 2017 Nuns Fire. I helped sift through the rubble and toxic ashes of their destroyed home and work studio, on a property that was formerly a sort of paradise and sanctuary; it was an intense and emotionally jarring experience, and it left a mark on me. 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of these catastrophic wildfires fueled by dangerous climate conditions. But we are not helpless. There are many actions we can take to prevent or minimize further destruction. To assist our professional community in learning (and educating others) about important wildfire risk reduction efforts and resources, I was asked to help develop the USGBC-REC chapter’s new Fire Ecology resource links . These links, along with the Fire Ecology-related articles that the chapter has posted on its website and in its recent newsletters, can help you identify and implement a number of concrete actions that could protect your own family and residence, your clients and their properties, and your community from wildfires.

When doing this research on fire ecology and wildfire risk reduction resources, I was heartened to discover that there are many experts (e.g., pyrogeologists, fire ecologists, and all types of fire science aficionados and fire safety officials) doing good work, and many smart and positive efforts are underway to lessen the wildfire risks going forward; these include a number of efforts in Northern California and the North Bay. For example, there is a growing understanding among land managers, fire agencies, policymakers, and state and county staff of the need for prescribed fires (AKA controlled burns): a once-traditional, indigenous practice to reduce dry and dead vegetation (fuels) and to safely mimic and manage what would occur naturally if most wildfires hadn’t been suppressed over the last century. I’ve been glad to observe that, at least in Sonoma County, prescribed fires have been happening much more frequently and in many areas before this coming fire season; I’ve been seeing scheduled burns regularly posted on the PulsePoint App’s map, and I’ve also occasionally seen and smelled the smoke from some of these managed fires. I’ve also read about previous prescribed burns (as well as greenbelt buffers) in our County that did, in fact, help protect some neighborhoods from last year’s raging fires.

The Fire Ecology resource links are organized into the following three sections: General, Community-scale, and Property/Building-scale. They feature California and Northern California-specific (state, local, and regional) resources, as well as some national and international resources. The web links include useful organizations, agencies, guidelines and strategies, grants and funding opportunities, reports, and articles.

The Community-scale resources cover state, regional, local/municipal, and neighborhood-level land use/management (of public and privately owned lands), e.g., forest management, prescribed fires/controlled burns, greenbelt buffers / Urban Growth Boundaries (for the wildland-urban interface), zoning that restricts building (or re-building) in fire-prone (or flood-prone or other disaster-prone) areas, and fire-resilient infrastructure.

The Property / Building-scale resources cover site and structure-specific issues, such as residential and commercial landscaping, vegetation management, defensible space; home/building hardening and protection (design, building, remodeling, retrofitting strategies); and smoke protection and remediation, indoor air quality (IAQ) e.g., ventilation and air filtering.

And the links in the General section provide information on a wide range of topics that are relevant to both community-scale policies and practices, as well as property/building-scale (e.g., land owner, building/home owner, and resident) policies and practices.

I have also created a Wildfire and Fire Ecology Twitter list that includes many of the organizations and resources from the REC listing. I have other Twitter lists, as well, including one on Climate .

In addition to doing everything we can to prevent or manage the spread of wildfires and to protect structures, people, and animals from wildfires, we all should also be doing everything we can (through our work, in our households, and as citizens) to help mitigate and slow climate change, as our fast-changing climate is the primary driver of these catastrophic wildfires that have become our “new normal.” To that end, you may be interested in reading some of these climate-specific posts on my blog ( TheGreenSpotlight.com ): 

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions, Tips, and Resources

Another post from my blog that is related to the topic of wildfires (and other climate-related disasters) is: Get Ready, Be Ready: Tips for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response .

Researching, assembling, and curating resource lists is one of my favorite things to do, so I’m very pleased to have been given this opportunity to develop the list of resources and links on Fire Ecology and wildfire risk reduction for the USGBC-REC chapter’s website. I was on the chapter’s Steering Committee many years ago, when I was working as a green building consultant. Now I mostly do writing, editing, and research on a broad range of environmental (and social) issues, including the climate crisis, regenerative land use, and environmental health. I hope that you will find the Fire Ecology resources and the related links above to be helpful and that you will share them and put them to good use.

For more information on Miriam Landman’s work, visit her LinkedIn profile . She can be reached by email at: info [at] mlandman.com.

Additional Fire Articles

“California seeks to establish new fire-safe standards for homes, insurers,” Press Democrat, February 8, 2021

“Sonoma County looks to entrepreneurs to help with forest management,” Press Democrat, February 5, 2021

“California enters legal fight over massive Lake County resort, housing project,” Press Democrat, February 6, 2021

“Becerra… argued the project’s environmental impact report…did not sufficiently address the increased risk of wildfire that would result from the development, as well as the limited capacity for evacuation from the community should a fire occur.”

“California will keep burning. But housing policy is making it worse.” ProPublica, October 2, 2020

“They know how to prevent mega-fires. Why won’t anybody listen?” ProPublica, August 28, 2020

“New maps show how climate change is making California ‘fire weather’ worse,” ProPublica, October 14, 2020

“The fires are worse because we managed the forests badly,” Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2020

“Exploring a multi-disciplinary approach to incorporating traditional knowledge into fuels treatments,” Fire Ecology, June 3, 2019

“Americans back tough limits on building in fire, flood zones,” New York Times, September 4, 2020

“Fire and Biodiversity in the Anthropocene,” Science magazine, November 20, 2020

“New Sonoma County plan offers roadmap for future land conservation” [and fire/climate resilience], Press Democrat, January 29, 2021

“California seeks to establish new fire-safe standards for homes, insurers,” Press Democrat, February 8, 2021

“EPA contest seeks ideas for a cheap air cleaner for wildfire season,” Press Democrat, Feb. 23, 2021

WELL Health and Safety Building Standard and Inspired Spaces

As told by USGBC Redwood Empire Board Member Claudia Cleaver:

It was a hot day with questionable air quality, but I quickly realized I was so lucky to interview Natasha Stocker, Well AP of the Santa Rosa interior design firm Inspired Spaces. I got to walk away with inspiration of my own.

Meredith Gilardoni, MG Photography 

I heard about Inspired Spaces after attending the opening of Beer Baron in Santa Rosa. I fell in love with the amazing interior and had to find out who designed it. When I found out Natasha was both the designer and a WELL AP, I decided I needed to meet her.

WELL launched in 2014 as a health and safety rating system for buildings and interior spaces. Though WELL has been used principally for offices, its check list – Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind, Community, and Innovations – can be used as a way to measure and implement interventions that advance human health for residences, hospitality, and even communities. The WELL Certification is currently only

Natasha explained her attraction to WELL. “I was initially drawn to WELL because it takes the principals of LEED, and breaks them down into a very approachable, very relatable way. When it’s properly implemented, you can actually feel the difference when you walk in to a space.  A space that has ben designed using the principals of WELL has a magical quality, because it is not only about avoiding toxic materials so that buildings do not make you sick; it’s also about the practices that can actually make you and keep you well. 

She says that, “eliminating the distractions of noise, temperature fluctuations, poor lighting and air quality, and adding that bit of nature doesn’t need to cost more.” Instead, research shows that WELL principals can make a positive difference in the bottom line as productivity and employee retention increase.” Natasha explained that “whether or not you subscribe to the pillars of health and wellness, businesses need to get on board with this philosophy just to stay relevant. WELL can be part of a larger business strategy that is good for both the planet, and its people.” 

Meredith Gilardoni, MG Photography 

Natasha walks her talk in her own interior designs office which she describes as having “a green house vibe with plants everywhere,” and time set aside for yoga breaks. 

The WELL Certification is currently available for commercial property. WELL Certification and the WELL AP credentialing program are administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). I am now so stoked to learn more about WELL and to collaborate with Natasha on some net zero projects with Inspired Spaces. What a great combo LEED and WELL.

Natasha Stocker – Allied ASID, WELL AP
Inspired Spaces – (707) 546-0997
3579 Westwind Blvd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Claudia Cleaver – LEED AP
Morse and Cleaver Architects
301 AN. Main St, Sebastopol, CA  95473

Climate Emergency Resolutions

The working document link.

Background info on Climate Emergency Resolutions

This revision: August 12, 2019

Start here: this is a letter that was sent to community groups in all the cities in Sonoma County to introduce the model Climate Emergency Resolution.

The Climate Mobilization is the organization in the U.S. that began advocating for emergency climate action in 2014. They helped shape the 2016 Democratic National Party Platform, the Green New Deal, and the Climate Emergency Declaration currently in the U.S House and Senate. Their website has a wealth of great background information.

One of the co-founders of The Climate Mobilization recently updated The Transformative Power of Climate Truth. It goes into the realities of the climate crisis and how we think about it.

Another deep dive is Climate Reality Check. Subtitled “After Paris, Counting the Cost,” it’s presents an honest look at climate reality. The list of endnotes is long.

And here’s the Climate Emergency Resolution template in use by Sebastopol, Windsor, Santa Rosa, and other local jurisdictions.

And here’s a short list of suggested actions to be implemented in conjunction with a Climate Emergency Resolution. Every jurisdiction has wide latitude in selecting their actions.

Here’s the Climate Emergency Resolution that the city of Petaluma passed on May 6, 2019.

Here’s a link to the website that tracks Climate Emergency Declarations/Resolutions worldwide: http://bit.ly/ce-governments. As of August 12, 2019, the number of jurisdictions listed stands at 948 and increases steadily.

And, finally, here’s an article titled, 7,000 Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency, With a Plan to Fight It