Coming Home: a word from Preserve Manager, Michael Gillogly
As we approach the anniversary of the Tubbs Fire almost three years ago, I am excited at the prospect of finally returning “home.” As you may know, my family lost our Pepperwood home of 17 years in the early hours of that fire storm. Now, the finishing touches are being made to our rebuild and we anticipate a September 1 move-in. The architecture (by Mithun Architects) and the finish details (Earthtone Construction) are beautiful, inspiring and fire resilient. The metal roof, enclosed eves, special vents, cement based exterior, fire sprinklers and fire smart landscaping will work together to help protect the house from the next fire. View the gallery below to see the progression of this project over the past year.
Of course, the next fire has already happened with the 2019 Kincade Fire burning within ½ mile of our rebuild and a ½ mile from our rental house in Windsor. Our Mediterranean weather, decades of poor forest management and a changing climate means we all have to learn to adapt to living with fire. We must integrate the tools we have at our disposal in order to live with wildfire. Defensible space, home hardening, improved forest management, community preparedness, adequate support for first responders, and emergency notification improvements are just some of these tools.
Nature can show the way. We have experienced the amazing fire recovery that nature has evolved over time to bounce back with improved health and resilience. Fire adapted plants can re-sprout after their above ground parts have burned. The thick bark of oaks and redwoods can often withstand fire. Some native plant seeds even require fire to germinate. The seed “bank” in grassland soils takes advantage of new nitrogen levels following a fire, in order to grow tall and lush. Wildlife thrives on new vegetative shoots. Wildfire is here to stay and we humans need to learn how to adapt to this reality with grace and intelligence.
The Pepperwood land management team has been preparing for wildfire for decades. Vegetation clearing, forest thinning and ladder fuel management are key techniques to not only reduce catastrophic wildfires but also to enhance plant and animal biodiversity, soil health, sequester carbon and protect our water supply. It is your volunteer work and financial support that makes it all possible.
What’s special about Pepperwood’s new buildings?
Fire Resistant …the new designs feature fire-resistant materials, with non-combustible steel posts, cement plaster walls, cement fiber panel cladding, dense black locust decking to reduce flame spread, and in the case of the barn, metal exteriors.
Low-Toxicity …our new buildings will use low VOC (Volatile Organic Carbons) paint, zero-VOC clay plaster walls, and non-toxic mineral wool for insulation.
Energy Efficient …cross-ventilated windows and doors, solar shade fins, skylights, and LED lighting help reduce energy demand. Low slope roofs allow for future installation of solar panels to help us reach our goal of becoming a Net-Zero Energy Campus, and electric vehicle charging stations will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Sustainable …a cistern will collect rainwater to supplement the irrigation system for the existing shade house and green house, where the next generations of Pepperwood’s native plants are nurtured.
Welcoming …our new buildings are designed to encourage collaboration and camaraderie among the many scientists, partners and citizens who come together at Pepperwood to find solutions for our most pressing environmental challenges.
David Goldberg, President at Mithun, says the Pepperwood project will “…bring forward a new generation of resilient, sustainable construction that provides a model for the rest of the County.” We’re now seeing that take place as the construction of our three new buildings: the Barn and Field Office, the Preserve Manager’s Home, and a new Visiting Scholars’ Center continues. Witness this exciting progress in our gallery below!