Residential Design

Vol 1, 2018

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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After the Fire ARKIN TILT ARCHITECTS BERKELEY, CALIF. Based in Berkeley, Calif., and recently celebrating 20 years in practice, Arkin Tilt Architects is dedicated to sustainable design and construction. The husband-and-wife team of David Arkin, AIA and LEED AP, and Anni Tilt, AIA, live and breathe responsible residential design, and their clients in the bay area and beyond come to them primed for their thoughtful approach. David's training includes work for sus- tainable design pioneers Sim Van der Ryn and Obie Bowman, FAIA, and Anni, who also has a degree in civil engineering in addition to her M.Arch, worked at Fernau and Hartman Architects, also leaders in ecological design. Over the years, their research into materials and methods has deepened their dedication to straw-bale construction. After the Califor- nia wine country firestorm hit last October, resulting in 44 deaths and more than $9 billion in damage in Sonoma and Napa counties, David and Anni were particularly anxious to learn how the many straw-bale houses and outbuildings they designed for the area had fared. They're happy to report that their projects performed very well, despite the extremely adverse conditions. Not satisfied with just the survival of the buildings, they've made it a prior- ity to learn where weaknesses and vulnerabilities occurred so they may address them going forward—in repairs, rebuilds, and new construction. What's more, with permission from their clients, they've made eight straw-bale house plan sets available free of charge to those who lost homes in the fire, complete with structural calculations donated by their office mate, Kevin Donahue Structural Engineers. Those plans can be found on the website strawbaleplans.com RD: David, the information you've been accumulating about the fire damage has a purpose beyond the firm's education, yes? DA: Yes. I'm a founder and the current director of the Cali- fornia Straw Building Association (CASBA). Anni and I have just come back from the Rocky Mountain Natural Building Conference, organized by the Colorado Straw Bale Associ- ation. Everyone was very interested to hear how buildings survived the fire. Insurers were especially interested, as some can't currently underwrite straw-bale policies. We finally have a code for straw-bale construction from the International Code Council, which is helping. So, in my role as the CASBA director, I'm collecting anecdotal information. We're doing a survey of sorts. What are your findings so far? DA: We've done probably 20 to 30 projects in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino, along with a few more remodels to help family out. A good number were directly in line with the wildfires or at the boundaries. Nearly all of our projects survived. Yay, straw bale! It's not a guaranteed, of course. You still need sturdy wood frames, metal roofs, and good fortune. In some firestorm areas, the best building wouldn't survive. Where we did see damage, it was because of some element apart from the straw-bale walls. For instance, on the Rosen- berg/Zuckerman project, there was a wood barn door close Left and above: David Arkin and Anni Tilt found their straw-bale houses performed well in the Wine Country fires. The Rosenberg/Zuckerman house is shown on both pages, before and after the fire. Photo: Ed Caldwell Photo: Ed Caldwell Photo: Michel Couvreaux 10 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGA ZINE.COM VOL. 1, 2018 VERBATIM

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