Fire Rebuild Topping Out by Michael Cobb

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The Glen Ellen Fire Restoration project was “topped out” recently with a prominent canted roof form capping the main living space of the house A big thank you to Chapman Construction for their attention to detail and their persistence through the wet winter. This canted lid is intended to address several functional requirements.

  1. A loft above the main living space that overlooks the pool.

  2. A strong sun breaking visor for the homes southern orientation toward the pool.

  3. A mount for a building integrated photovoltaic system (BIPV) that will to be installed on a standing seam roof.

The recent fires have placed an emphasis on fire resistance and on-site power generation in their wake. Metal and stucco are two materials that were prevalent in the area prior to the fire and are seeing increased use in its wake. The clean lines and simple palette of this building should represent a good approach in this environment and we are looking forward to monitoring the progress of our own integral color stucco along with metal roofing and windows.

Exteriors Landscape Architecture has done the design work around the salvaged pool and we are looking forward to seeing that manifest. In previous projects it has been my experience their work is a vital and softening compliment to the time we spend making the building a simple affair that is fundamentally livable and build-able. I really enjoyed working on this residence with my fellow architect-in-crime, Robert Beall.


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Glenn Ellen Fire Restoration Breaking Ground by Michael Cobb


We are happy to announce our first fire restoration project breaking ground in Glenn Ellen.

A common challenge associated with burn properties is the mandated hazardous material cleanup. This cleanup effort often leaves a large shallow hole where the house foundation previously existed.

Figuring out ways to turn this depression into a design asset - and not a metaphor for anyone’s state of recovery - has been an ongoing interest of Hedgpeth Architects. In the many months following the fire, it has been important as we design homes, to find ways to turn the unexpected effects of the fire into design assets. An early lesson is shown here, as we break ground on the foundation.

Working with MKM Structural Engineers and Chapman Construction, we have implemented a waffle mat technology for the foundation of this residence. The client wanted a residence that flowed out easily into the landscape and related well to a surviving swimming pool and future surrounding gardens.


Using upside-down form boxes made from recycled milk carton containers, the foundation forming process creates a series of voids and thin concrete fins under an otherwise conventionally thick concrete slab. Normally the grading associated with a waffle mat slab is more extensive than a conventional slab-on-grade or a stem wall foundation and this can be a prohibitive expense for homeowners.

Nevertheless, the waffle mats superior performance in association with the expansive soils prevalent here in Sonoma County make it a tempting candidate regardless of this grading challenge.

In the wake of the fire another expense has unexpectedly reared its head. People are struggling to bring the floor levels of their new homes up to where they were before the fire. As homeowners contemplate the expense of trucking in and compacting fill, the waffle slab becomes a “lifting up” proposition instead of an “digging down” one.

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A big thank you to MKM for introducing us to the technology and Chapman Construction for expediting the install as the rains approach.