Thanks to Fire Resistant Architecture, UC Santa Cruz – Big Creek Reserve Unharmed by Dolan Fire

We were relieved to learn that the Research and housing that we recently completed at the UCSC Big Creek Reserve escaped the Dolan Fire undamaged thanks to fire resistant architecture and the work of Reserve managers and UC staff alongside CDF to face the emergency. It is also the result of good planning that included WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) standards for fire-resistant construction, water storage and site preparedness. ⁠

Resilience in the face of climate change, and the study of how the coastal ecosystem is responding is a big part of the mission of The Reserve. The Conservation Biologists who study and work at Big Creek know the fire cycle from academic and up-close-and-personal perspectives. We appreciate and support their work and are glad that advanced planning, architecture, and design helped in some way.⁠

Working with the Conservation Biology Department, Levy Art + Architecture developed fire-resistant designs for a living classroom, scientific research housing and staff housing on the 7000 acre Natural Reserve site. In addition to developing an appropriate architectural language, we have coordinated a project team to create a complete, standalone facility that is self-powering, and environmentally neutral in terms of water supply and wastewater disposal. The level of difficulty is increased by the close proximity to the pristine Big Creek and its riparian zone. Budget constraints were extreme as we were asked to develop two, separate sites, that each required complete infrastructure for water, power, wastewater, road and fire access, as well as protection for sensitive environments and species. We have worked through a rigorous UC process and created an exemplary architectural response.