Last November, Lisa Camarillo and her daughter were among the hundreds that lost their homes to the devastating Tea Fire.
However, thanks to donations from community members and the hard work of the Community Environmental Council and others, the Camarillo family now has a new home: one that is not only fire resistant, but also on the cutting edge of green building technology.
The nearly completed house, which was on display during last Sunday’s Earth Day Festival at Alameda Park, was meant to be a model for environmentally friendly building techniques. The house was left partially unfinished for the Earth Day Festival so the public could observe the green technology behind walls and other fixtures, but it will soon be completed for the Camarillo family.
According to Lindsey Taggart, building energy specialist for the CEC, the idea to build a house for the Earth Day Festival to highlight energy efficient buildings was brought up last summer.
“At first we couldn’t find a final client, someone who would ‘buy’ the house and take it after Earth Day,” Taggart said. “We temporarily gave up on the idea last fall, but then the Tea Fire happened and we realized that there would be a lot of people looking for a new home. We finally found a suitable family with the help of the Tea Fire Relief volunteer group”
Last November’s Tea Fire was hugely destructive and ultimately left over 200 families without homes. Apparently, the result of a poorly extinguished bonfire, the blaze burned nearly 2,000 acres in and around Montecito and has been described as one of the worst natural disasters to hit fire-prone Santa Barbara in decades.
Although the Camarillo family received insurance money from the fire, their new “green” house was built with the assistance of a combination of donations and labor from the local community. Allen Associates, a specialized green construction company, and the CEC collaborated on the project, which took eight days to construct.
When completed, the house will be 800 square feet and will feature bamboo flooring, ENERGY STAR appliances, soy-based spray foam insulation, a rainwater harvesting system and an efficient water heating system. The house also has fiber-cement siding, enclosed eaves and special landscaping to resist fire.
Allen Associates and the CEC pursued this project as an example of what can currently be done with green building technology. Taggart hopes the Camarillo home will inspire others to pursue environmentally friendly lifestyles.
“This type of housing is totally feasible for the general public right now,” Taggart said. “This home had many higher-end features like custom cabinets and bamboo flooring that could be replaced with lower-end–but still green–features, and would bring down the price substantially. My hope is that the 2,000 plus people that toured the house will tell their friends about it.”
“Our goal,” she said, “was to introduce the public to a green home and show them that having a green home of their own is fairly easy, accessible and enjoyable.”