The Earth: An Architect’s Responsibility

Everyone is responsible to be thoughtful stewards of our planet. Our team is proud of our expertise in sustainable home design, yet there is always more to learn. To address this need, we established “TBAU” (Tim Barber Architects University) — where each staff member researches and presents a topic of their choosing. Last year, we expanded our knowledge of sustainability. We ended 2020 with a wealth of new insights to improve our projects. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve chosen to share a sampling from our presentations.


Priya Dhairayawan, Design Associate

Many of our projects are new custom homes, which often require demolition of an existing structure: a process that can also be sustainably completed. Demolition recycling is the process of deconstructing all or part of a structure during demolition in order to reutilize them and reduce items going to landfills. These materials include concrete, wood, asphalt, metal, brick, glass, fixtures, trees… the list goes on! After deconstruction, the materials can be picked up by a certified Construction & Demolition Recycling Facility; or sold or donated to organizations like The Reuse People, Pasadena Architectural Salvage, the Freecycle Network and Habitat for Humanity ReStores

Prior to construction of our new LEED Gold Sustainable Home in Studio City, CA, the property’s existing home was dismantled by the Deconstruction & ReUse Network. The salvaged items and materials were carefully extracted and organized, then distributed to a network of local and international non-profit organizations for reuse.


Jim Coyle, Project Manager

Architecture has evolved throughout the centuries, so much so that buildings are often designed for style versus function. Elizabeth Gordon, editor of House Beautiful wrote, “Glass houses are often too hot in summer, too cold in winter, lack privacy and beauty, and generally not livable.” At Tim Barber Architects, our homes are designed to be both beautiful and sympathetic to their surroundings. We often begin with passive design strategies: analyzing the sun and wind paths to keep the home cool (or warm) when needed; choosing materiality to either reflect or absorb heat; understanding the placement and type of mature trees to provide shade and protection; and many more. Learn more about our design process here.

26 Southern Colonial Residence Tim Barber Architects 1

We conducted sun and wind studies for the site of this new home, a Southern Colonial residence in Atherton, CA. It was also designed with careful consideration of the existing mature walnut tree and the surrounding redwood trees. Photo by Laura Hull.


Ben Jensen, Job Captain

A sustainable landscape is one where the natural resources are protected, where wildlife habitat is improved and where human uses and maintenance practices do not harm the environment. This is true for any type of landscaping, from community parks to private backyards. In collaboration with talented landscape designers, we strive for our homes to be as earth-friendly as possible, inside and out. Native vegetation is typically selected, which provides flood control and storm water benefits by absorbing and storing precipitation. In addition, we nearly always opt for porous surfaces, like porous pavement, mulch paths, gravel lots, etc. By allowing water/vapor to pass through, groundwater is recharged, erosion is reduced, flooding events are lessened and pollutants are filtered.

19 Outdoor Fireplace Urban Farmhouse Tim Barber Architects 1The hardscape design of our Urban Farmhouse in Venice, CA features porous surfaces, including stone pavers and gravel. Photo by Roger Davies. Landscape design by Scott Shrader. 


Kyra Bauman, Job Captain

Composting is more than just worms and “ew”! Although waste occurs throughout the supply chain, it is estimated that 37% (30M tons) of uneaten surplus food is generated at homes — which ultimately becomes food waste (source: ReFed). One way we can begin to individually address this massive problem is composting. In Los Angeles, there are many ways to start:


Kelly Becker, Senior Project Manager

It is no secret that California is prone to wildfires. Rising temperatures dry out the soil and turn vegetation to fuel; winter snowpacks are melting earlier; and regional winds provide the oxygen fires need to burn. When building or renovating homes, considering fire safety in high-risk areas begins from the start — often with selecting the construction site. For example, the narrowest wall of the building should be oriented toward the likely path of a wildfire to minimize the risk of structural ignition. Other factors to consider include:

  • Defensible space: This is the space around a building in which vegetation, debris and other types of combustible fuels have been treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of fire. It is important to assess both the horizontal and vertical aspects of vegetation when designing the defensible space.
  • Eaves, overhangs & soffits: Flat, horizontal soffits (versus attaching the soffits to the sloped joists, creating sloped soffits) reduce the potential for entrapment of embers and hot gases.
  • Exterior walls: Concrete, fiber-cement panels or siding, exterior fire-retardant treated wood siding or panels, stucco, masonry and metal are recommended materials, as the covering itself should not ignite and fuel the fire.

This new custom Shingle Style Residence in Beverly Hills, CA features fire-resistant shingles and box eaves. Photos by Laura Hull.

Our designs are rooted in tradition, yet we are committed to the future of a healthier and safer planet. Our dedication to sustainability and our continued learning define our firm. This year, our TBAU focus is Healthy Homes. Stay tuned for more on that! In the meantime, learn more about our team.