burned mountains and home in california

Making a Positive Environmental Impact Rebuilding California's Homes After Wildfires

By Karin Burns, Build It Green Executive Director

Dec. 5, 2018

A home destroyed in the Woolsey Wildfire. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Fire Dept.

Although the relieving news broke that the fires were 100 percent contained, the devastating impact of the most recent California wildfires—the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California—confirms this years’ outbreak as the most deadly wildfires in California’s history, with at least 91 deaths and around 1,000 missing persons reported.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, plans for rebuilding homes and restoring communities are well on their way and the conversations builders, developers, and policymakers are having focus on what can be done differently to prevent these tragedies from happening again and how the state will plan rebuilding efforts of this magnitude.

Today Build It Green’s mission is more relevant than ever, as we aim for a future where healthy home building is essential to creating positive changes in these times of the climate crisis and public health issues. 

Build It Green’s vision is for all people to thrive in homes that enhance our well-being, protect our environment, and ensure a stable and prosperous future. Safe, affordable, and healthy housing is foundational to enabling quality of life for individuals and families. So, in effort to work towards homes that accomplish these goals here are three key factors in rebuilding homes after the wildfires that will have the most positive environmental impact.

a forest ranger in a green uniform standing in a pile of burnt rubble near a burned tree trunk

A U.S. Forest Service Ranger Evaluates a destroyed neighborhood in the Camp Fire region. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service. 

1. Building Homes that Combat Climate Change

Climate change threatens our safety and prosperity. We must change the way we design, build, and upgrade our homes to decrease carbon emissions dramatically. In doing so we can make a difference in the ever increasing issues we are facing with water, energy, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health.

2. Homes with our Health and Safety in Mind

Millions of people all over California were exposed to dangerous air quality like never before. After the fires, neighborhoods remain plagued by hazardous chemicals, ash and debris. Lead, asbestos and other toxins could leach into water supplies and soil. We must remember that these toxins were once inside people's homes.

Build It Green sees an opportunity through our programs like GreenPoint Rated, to support advanced building practices and to provide these areas in need of rebuilding with homes that are healthy, comfortable, durable, and resource efficient.

3. Keeping Energy Costs Low for Affordable Housing

California is facing a housing affordability crisis which these fires are exacerbating. We must rebuild homes that are affordable, especially for vulnerable populations. Building high-performance homes that maintain lower utility bills makes housing more affordable for all.

Our Goals and California’s Goals are One in the Same

Combined these efforts will be an excellent step in the right direction, making a substantial impact in California's goals to move towards renewable energy, decreasing GHG emissions, improving public health and making housing more affordable. These initiatives are what drive Build It Green’s mission, to create a world of healthy and sustainable homes for all people and we look forward to supporting California’s rebuilding efforts in the years to come.

How Can I Help?

Make sure your Home is Energy Efficient:

Make a difference by committing to creating a home that is energy efficient, and healthier, find a GreenPoint Rater here.

There's also many opportunities through utility services to make your home more energy efficient. See if you qualify for any current programs here.

Make a Donation:

In an effort to bring relief and make a difference in the lives’ of those impacted, we encourage making a contribution to these reputable organizations working in Northern and Southern California:

 


 

karin burnsKarin Burns is the Executive Director of Build It Green, a nonprofit with a mission to create a world of healthy and sustainable homes for all people.