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Revealed – winning wildfire-resilient landscaping designs

Revealed – winning wildfire-resilient landscaping designs | Insurance Business America

“Beauty and safety can be compatible goals”


Terry Gangcuangco

In honor of Wildfire Awareness Month, the University of California, Berkeley has announced the winners of a wildfire-resilient landscaping contest. The initiative, in collaboration with CSAA Insurance Group and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), aimed to generate innovative and cost-effective landscaping ideas that enhance wildfire defense while maintaining aesthetic appeal.

UC Berkeley’s Kristina Hill, PhD, director of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development, oversaw the contest. The panel of judges consisted of landscape design and wildfire defense specialists.

The prize distribution is as follows:

  • $10,000: Grace Diebel / Shayda Rashidi
  • $5,000: Madeira BooydeGraaff / Florencia Sepulveda, Yanyao Cui, Rebekah Cammack / Alison Dooley, Nicolas Lira / Anna Niubo Bermejo
  • $1,000: Grayson Curtis / Elias Demosthenes / Harrison Raine, Mostafa Sedky, Elisa Woodham

Hill remarked: “The goal of this contest was to inspire our students to apply their advanced knowledge of design and show that beauty and safety can be compatible goals, which they clearly achieved. While a changing climate may increase our wildfire threat, these award-winning designs illuminate that the visual draw and practical function of a home can go hand in hand.”

The winning designs incorporate comprehensive landscaping plans with a particular focus on the zero-to-five-foot home ignition zone, aligning with the Wildfire Prepared Home standard from IBHS. This system, grounded in recent wildfire research, aims to significantly lower the chance of home ignition by embers.

Alister Watt, IBHS’s chief product officer, stated: “The science behind Wildfire Prepared Home proves that taking a system of actions to protect one’s home from wildfire can dramatically reduce risk. As reflected in these landscape designs, the home ignition zone is crucial to establishing a line of defense against wildfire, and the good news is that it does not require sacrificing curb appeal.”

The top designs cater to different budget levels – low, medium, and high – emphasizing the establishment of a noncombustible home ignition zone. This involves using soils and hardscape rather than vegetation around a home’s perimeter and removing flammable mulch, yard debris, trees, and bushes.

Linda Goldstein, executive vice president of customer experience and marketing at CSAA Insurance Group, commented: “We are thrilled to share these compelling landscape designs and hope they inspire property owners to embrace these ideas that protect and beautify. By continuing to support innovative ideas that reduce risk, we remain committed to protecting our customers and our communities.”

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