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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
STAR : Sustainability Tools for Assessing & Rating communities
STAR Communities is a Washington, DC based nonprofit organization, now partnered with USGBC , that works to evaluate, improve and certify sustainable communities. They administer the STAR Community Rating System (STAR), the nation’s leading framework and certification program for local sustainability. Cities and counties use STAR to measure their progress across social, economic and environmental performance areas.
STAR’s Goal Areas and Objectives
Built Environment: Achieve livability, choice, and access for all where people live, work, and play
Climate & Energy: Reduce climate impacts through adaptation and mitigation efforts and increase resource efficiency
Economy & Jobs: Create equitably shared prosperity and access to quality jobs
Education, Arts & Community: Empower vibrant, educated, connected, and diverse communities
Equity & Empowerment: Ensure equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity for all community members
Health & Safety: Strengthen communities to be healthy, resilient, and safe places for residents and businesses
Natural Systems: Protect and restore the natural resource base upon which life depends
An eighth category, Innovation & Process, supports the evolution of sustainability practice by recognizing best practices and processes, exemplary performance, local innovation, and good governance.
Each of the rating system’s 7 goal areas is supported by 6-7 Objectives. Objectives are the clear and desired achievement intended to move the community toward the broader sustainability goal. Below are the system’s 45 objectives, organized by goal area.
STAR Framework of Sustainability Goals & Objectives
STAR objectives are achieved through attainment of two types of evaluation measures: community level outcomes and local actions. Outcomes are measurable condition-level indicators that depict a community’s progress toward a preferred state or condition within the STAR objective it supports. Outcomes are represented as trend lines, targets, or thresholds in the rating system.
The menu-based system allows local governments and their local partners to select the objectives they feel are most relevant to their communities.
Objectives are met by two types of actions
Education and Outreach
Policy and Code Adjustment
Partnerships and Collaboration
Inventory, Assessment, or Survey
Enforcement and Incentives
Programs and Services Preparatory
Facilities and Infrastructure Improvements
Each of the seven goal areas has 100 available points in six or seven objectives of 10 or 20 points. There are 50 points available in a Innovation and Process objective as well.
All points are verified by STAR Communities.
There are three levels of certification
3 Star Community – 250-449 points 4 Star Community – 450-649 points 5 Star Community –650-750 points
The process usually takes a year and there are post certification services from Star Communities to help communities continually improve and recertify
We lost a real leader in the green building community last month. Our chapter president, and guiding light died unexpectedly. We were shocked.
Steve spent his last day meeting with an inspiring new client, training for a San Francisco to Santa Barbara bike ride / climate fundraiser, playing with his grandson, and watching the Warriors pull off an epic last-minute win. As soon as it was clear his team had won, Steve was gone; far too soon for his family and friends.
Steve’s family evaded the Holocaust, immigrated to the US, and he grew up in Los Angeles in a working class multi-generational German-Jewish household. He had warm memories of his grandmother’s plum tarts and the gefilte fish she would prepare in the bathtub. His father took him fishing and inspired in him a love of classical music.
Since his childhood he dreamt of being an architect, which led him to attain a degree from USC in architecture. There he met a group of fellow students who would remain his closest friends and collaborators throughout his career. Upon graduating, he apprenticed with a builder and began working with his tools. For the rest of his life, he blended architectural drawing with hands-on building.
Steve landed in Sebastopol in California’s Sonoma County in the early 70’s and raised a family there, along with large vegetable gardens and goats and chickens. He designed and built their passive solar home, where he lived happily for the rest of his life.
Steve had the rare privilege of a life whose passion and livelihood were one and the same. He was a strong-willed and independent man, and he remained self-employed throughout his career. This allowed him to be present in his children’s lives: he participated in school trips and sporting events, taught them about gardening and the natural world, and even designed several buildings at the local Waldorf School, from which all four children graduated.
His life was driven by the idea of community and by connecting more meaningfully with the natural world. As his children began their own lives, he found a new passion in sustainability and green building, always striving to lower the carbon footprint of his work. He built live-work apartments with communal outdoor spaces. Through his design, landscaping, and thoughtfully chosen building materials, he encouraged human interaction and a close connection to the natural world.
His death at 72 years old leaves many projects in process, including a hempcrete house and his work as president of his local chapter of the US Green Building Council.
Along with his work, Steve’s passions included hiking and backpacking, white water canoeing, swimming, baking sourdough bread, gardening, digging holes, watching sports, playing tennis and finding the best cheap eats. He felt that his greatest accomplishments were his family, his children and grandchildren, even as he created a landscape of utility and beauty around him.
He is survived by his wife, Michaela, children Oliver (Brody), Will (Sarah), Lowell (Natalie), Brenna, six grandchildren, brother Mark, and his dog sidekick, Andre.
“We don’t have much time to get things right now,” Steve said. “It’s a crunch.”