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CSAA Insurance Group Partners with UC Berkeley and IBHS on Landscape Design Contest Focused on Reducing Wildfire Risk

Top designs from UC Berkeley students are eligible to receive prizes totaling $40K


WALNUT CREEK, Calif., Dec. 14, 2023 – A landscape design contest underway at the University of California, Berkeley, is expected to produce innovative, affordable ideas for homeowners that emphasize wildfire defense while preserving attractiveness. Conceived by CSAA Insurance Group and hosted by the university’s College of Environmental Design, the collaboration also includes the participation of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and is consistent with CSAA’s other initiatives focused on protecting communities from wildfire. 


“Landscape design is essential to the visual draw and practical function of a home,” said Kristina Hill, PhD, director of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development at UC Berkeley. “Our students are eager to apply their advanced knowledge of design to help people see that beauty and safety can be compatible goals, as the dangers of wildfire increase in a changing climate.”


While a full landscape design is expected, student designers will place special emphasis on the 0-5’ home ignition zone, consistent with the Wildfire Prepared Home™ standard developed by IBHS. Based on the latest wildfire research, this system of mitigation actions can meaningfully reduce the likelihood that embers will ignite a home.


“The home ignition zone offers an opportunity to establish an important first line of defense against wildfire,” said Alister Watt, chief product officer for IBHS. “With this contest and our Wildfire Prepared Home standard, our goal is to help homeowners understand that strengthening your home against wildfire does not require abandoning curb appeal and can be low maintenance.”


In addition to establishing a completely non-combustible ignition zone, which focuses on placing soils and hardscape rather than vegetation around a home’s perimeter, other landscape-specific factors include removing yard debris, trees and bushes. The top designs will address varying budget levels (low, medium, high), and be selected by a jury of landscape design professionals. The winning designers will receive prizes totaling $40K.


In an ongoing effort to help protect communities, CSAA has supported a number of innovations focused on reducing wildfire risk. These include forest resilience bonds, which fund the upfront costs of forest restoration, as well as the California Wildfire Innovation Fund, which invests in projects that will reduce forest overgrowth and convert it into useable products. CSAA was also among the first supporters of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, which focuses on all aspects of wildfire science and management to better understand fire, as well as the Climate Resiliency Challenge, which sought solutions to help frontline communities prevent, prepare for and recover from climate-related disasters, including wildfires.


“As wildfires continue to threaten homes and communities, science-based research identifies the important design elements that play a critical role in protecting properties,” said Linda Goldstein, executive vice president of customer experience and marketing at CSAA Insurance Group. “As with our $25M commitment to the California Wildfire Innovation Fund and support of ongoing wildfire research, we are focused on finding new and creative solutions that can keep homeowners and their properties safe.”


The winners of the Wildfire Landscape Design contest will be announced in early 2024.


About CSAA Insurance Group

CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer, offers automobile, homeowners and other personal lines of insurance to AAA Members through AAA clubs in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Founded in 1914, the company has been rated “A” or better by AM Best for more than 90 years, and is one of the top personal lines property casualty insurance groups in the United States, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The company has been repeatedly named one of the 50 most community-minded companies in America by Points of Light. More information is available at http://csaa-insurance.aaa.com and on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram).


About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)

The IBHS mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss. Learn more about IBHS at ibhs.org.


About Wildfire Prepared Home

Wildfire Prepared Home is the first-ever wildfire mitigation designation program. Based on the latest wildfire research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), it offers California homeowners a path to take the system of science-based actions shown to meaningfully reduce a home’s wildfire risk. Learn more at wildfireprepared.org.


About the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
UC Berkeley is a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California. It was established in 1868 as the University of California and is the state's first land-grant university and the founding campus of the University of California system. Berkeley is frequently ranked among the top universities worldwide. The College of Environmental Design (CED) stands among the nation’s top environmental design schools. It is one of the world’s most distinguished laboratories for experimentation, research, and intellectual synergy. The first school to combine the disciplines of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture into a single college, CED led the way toward an integrated approach to analyzing, understanding, and designing our built environment.