CSAA Insurance Group Partners with UC Berkeley and IBHS on Wildfire Risk

The organizations are collaborating on a landscape design contest aimed at innovative landscape design to reduce wildfire risk.

(Image source: IBHS.)

CSAA Insurance Group (Walnut Creek, Calif.) has promoted a landscape design contest underway at the University of California, Berkeley, that it expects 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, the insurer reports.

Kristina Hill, PhD, director of the Institute for Urban and Regional Development at UC Berkeley.

“Landscape design is essential to the visual draw and practical function of a home,” comments 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-foot home ignition zone, consistent with the Wildfire Prepared Home standard developed by IBHS, a CSAA Insurance Group statement says. Based on the latest wildfire research, this system of mitigation actions can meaningfully reduce the likelihood that embers will ignite a home.

Alister Watt, Chief Product Officer, IBHS.

“The home ignition zone offers an opportunity to establish an important first line of defense against wildfire,” says Alister Watt, chief product officer, 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 reports that it 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.

Linda Goldstein, EVP, Customer Experience & Marketing, CSAA Insurance Group.

Focus on New and Creative Solutions

“As wildfires continue to threaten homes and communities, science-based research identifies the important design elements that play a critical role in protecting properties,” comments Linda Goldstein, EVP, customer experience and marketing, 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.

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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