With the Jesusita Fire under control, and evacuees returning home, environmental contractors have begun discussing the possibility of rebuilding green, fireproof homes for the victims of this latest wildfire.
Late last year, after over 200 homes were destroyed in November’s Tea Fire, local contractors and environmental organizations hosted a forum titled “From Ashes to Opportunity” to discuss green building options for those who had lost their homes. Now, in the wake of the Jesusita Fire – which has destroyed 78 homes and damaged over 20 more – the contractors are once again preparing to educate the community about the eco-friendly, fire resistant options available to those that lost their homes.
Allen Associates – a group that specializes in commercial and residential green construction – were among a group of organizations and companies, including the American Institute of Architects, the Community Environmental Council, and the Santa Barbara Contractors Association, dedicated to the reconstruction process after the Tea Fire, and many are expected to participate in the Jesusita recovery efforts as well.
According to Karen Feeney, Green Resources Manager at Allen Associates, the company is hoping to partner with other firms and hold a Jesusita Fire forum. However, no date has been set as of yet.
“At this point, I’ve talked to the CEC and [others at Allen Associates and] we’ve decided that we need to do something,” Feeney said. “I think what it is that we are going to be doing for sure will be partnering with architects and other builders to get a forum on rebuilding green and fire resistant homes.”
According to Feeney, the Tea Fire forum held last December was popular with the community.
“Last time, it was a three- or three-and-a-half-hour session in Montecito and we invited all the Tea Fire folks,” Feeney said. “It was very well-attended. There were about 200 or 300 people.”
Karin Perissinotto, executive director of the Santa Barbara Contractors Association and Built Green Santa Barbara, said these educational efforts are important, since scams and illegal contracting are some of the biggest concerns in the wake of a disaster like the Jesusita Fire.
In order to prevent such incidents, Perissinotto said, the SBCA serves as a community resource for those searching out qualified contractors. Their Web site lists helpful advice to avoid scams, including tips such as hiring only California state-licensed contractors and keeping a job file of all paperwork relating to building projects.
Perissinotto also expressed willingness to take part in upcoming reconstruction efforts for Jesusita victims.
“We would definitely be a part of that,” she said. “It’s too close for a date right now, [but] we would definitely be supportive and willing to participate.”
Although nothing has been finalized, Perissinotto said that Built Green Santa Barbara – a division of the SBCA – will also work with other nonprofits to encourage environmentally friendly building.
“Both of our organizations are nonprofit and we’re here to educate the community and help them out,” Perissinotto said.
In addition to hosting December’s Tea Fire forum, Allen Associates partnered with the Community Environmental Council to build a specialized house that was both environmentally friendly and fire-resistant, which they donated to a family that lost their home to the Tea Fire.
The house was presented during Alameda Park’s Earth Day Festival in April as an example of innovative building techniques. Although Allen Associates does not plan on building a house for any specific family as a gift again, they hope that the house will serve as an example as Jesusita victims choose how to rebuild their homes.