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443px-Smoke advancing on Blue Sky in SoCal 2007

Smoke advancing on blue sky in San Diego

The Challenge...

Bringing Green building practices into the mainstream is slow and difficult everywhere. To increase adoption of Green building materials, designs, and processes requires ongoing education and promotion. The drama of the fires provides and opportunity to educate by showing how properties that were relatively more Green performed compared to those that were less so.


Use the opportunity of the fire to create a "Green Fire Assessment" that catalyzes a dialogue about Green building in a fire prone region. The San Diego AIA, in collaboration with the San Diego chapters of the Building Industry Association, Green Building Council and others, conduct an assessment of the fire damage that serves sort of a parallel function to the San Diego Foundation's socially focused community assessment? Instead of guiding recovery grant-making for social issues, it could guide recovery design/architecture and rebuilding for sustainability issues.


A "Green Fire Assessment" might have three initial audiences: the design and building communities, and regulation (planning, code, etc.), with an additional version for the homeowner/lay audience.


A "Green Fire Assessment" might set the stage for a strategic process of replace-and-upgrade-to-Green that gets played out one infill structure/neighborhood at a time all over the county. It could be the playbook for how to "make the jump to hyper-Green" wherever you can, as quick as you can, every time an opportunity like a disaster or other opening presents itself.

Assessment Topics

Such an assessment might reveal planning, development and construction forms that:

  • Encouraged or thwarted fire intensity/spread (topography, roads, landscaping, construction materials, etc.)
  • Show resilience - including quick clean-up and habitat recovery
  • Were most "Green" even in fire compared to those burns leaving toxic waste
  • Were most defensible by fire agencies, but just as interesting, were defensible by individual residents and neighborhood groups (shelter in place, etc.)
  • Encouraged, by design, resident and neighborhood participation in maintaining firesafe/defensible space
  • Offered the most evacuation flexibility - including design for refuge/safe-zones
  • Accounted for special populations (elderly, disabled, youth, pets and livestock)
  • Offered the best insurance and financing because of their fire resiliency and "green-ness"
  • And, for which types will "the jump to hyper-green" be easiest now that the opportunity has arisen.

Next Steps

  • What else should it include?
  • Who are the audiences?
  • Who should contribute to it?
  • Who should sponsor it?
  • How would it be funded?
  • How would it be introduced into political and regulatory processes?

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