I attended a homeowners association meeting November 13th, 2007 in Rancho Bernardo at the RB Presbyterian Church for fire victims mostly along Espola Road. There were about 250 people there, of which >40% (by raise of hands) indicated they were burned out. The rest indicated that they were affected as neighbors (smoke damage, partially destroyed, etc.).
The HOA management company who hosted the meeting and that serves several planned neighborhoods in that area has their attorneys and architects already lined up and working hard. In this HOA's case all rebuild plans will be submitted to their architecture committee for approval of materials, color palette, exterior finishes, and general harmony with the surrounding neighborhood.
If anyone is going to build using Green design in planned communities, that is much of a visual departure from the existing housing inventory, plans will have to get approved by the HOA's architectural committee gauntlet even before going approval by the City of SD. The well organized HOAs are one more referee in the going-Green game.
Additionally, well organized HOAs are encouraging clusters of homeowners to band together to use a shared architect and builder. This creates small multi-home infill projects under one creative and one construction lead.
The good news is that cluster-at-time design/rebuild creates an opportunity to influence a few designers and a few builders toward bunches of Green projects at a time. This could provide a much better return on influencing and education resources expended. Working with clusters of rebuilders that want to be consistent with each other is also great news because it automatically opens the door for volume purchasing and standardization, all of which reduce costs, hassle, and time for everyone.
As a tactical measure, consider developing Green SWAT teams that can make the rounds of HOAs to influence them toward Green Specification Projects. I'm thinking in terms of 2 person teams that cover the basics of Green with the designers and builders.
Keep the pitch simple:
- Fireresistant exterior finishes, materials, and design elements
- Green materials choices (not visible in the finished product) including SIPS, insulations, flooring and paints.
- Electricity and heating/cooling tactics/materials/products including nuances that yield passive solar benefits
- Electric and hotwater generation products
- Rainwater capture from roofs for landscape use
- Incentive programs for rebates and tax benefits
- Resources for more information and education
Howard Blackson, Placemakers, suggests developing "Pattern Books" that can be left behind with the Architecture Committee members as a guide for best practices that can be applied within the context of HOA design guidelines.
The more Green SWAT teams reach the HOAs early the more bunches of houses will be influenced toward Green, not to mention all the one-off designers and builders that are subsequently brought in to interact with those HOAs.
While the immediate work of influencing the HOAs gets underway, the slower process of organizing a consortium of Green building community members can continue. But, if the influencing doesn't begin very soon, the opportunity to change the game rules with one of the key referees, the HOAs, will be lost for this go round.
If this Rancho Bernardo group is representative of the most organized of the HOA's, then the game among the planned communities is on, and HOA architecture committees are already making critical decisions that will affect the prospects for getting a Green lift from this fire.
Other approaches will be needed for the two other main populations of rebuilders that I see:
1) Low-income Housing: this is needed all over the Harris Fire area, as well as much of Ramona, and Fallbrook. Injecting more Green into this population could come in the form of highly-Green small-footprint prefab housing solutions that are delivered in collaboration with governments and NGO helpers working in these areas. The task of influencing here, besides government, will be among the volunteer rebuilding groups like Habitat for Humanity, Menonite Disaster Services and others. There is an opportunity among them to promote fast installations of prefabs, process consistency, and early wins. Early wins means celebratory press releases that can add good buzz and momentum to a "Green revolution" among rebuilders. There's also the truly important feel-good factor of helping the poor improve their long-term economic prospects by going Green. The struggling middle-class could find this attractive too.
2) High-end Custom Rebuilds: These are also scattered around all the affected areas. That population has more resources to take their time, be experimental, explore exotic designs, materials, and products. Also they will be larger in scale. Influencing these folks is perhaps the most familiar task the Green building community has faced because they have so far been the early adopters who could afford to consider these options. They are, however, in my estimation, fewer in number, more complex, slower to build, and less likely to propagate copy-cat dynamics across the main of home rebuilding.