Monday, July 23 , 2018, 6:44 am | Fair 64º


Builder Dennis Allen Named City of Santa Barbara’s First Water Hero

Allen Associates president honored for LEED-certified Victoria Garden Mews residential development

Dennis Allen has been named the city of Santa Barbara’s first Water Hero for his LEED Platinum residential development Victoria Garden Mews in downtown Santa Barbara.

Dennis Allen
Dennis Allen

The four-unit condo development, which he helped design, build and now lives in, showcases many advances in water-efficient practices, as well as several other sustainable features and systems.

Allen, of Allen Associates, has been building in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years. As a builder, he wanted to push the envelope and try out new building innovations and strategies. As a homeowner, he was motivated to reduce his carbon footprint and create a peaceful, sustainable residence from which he could bike and walk.

The project was designed, by Thompson Naylor Architects, to incorporate many water-efficient features, both indoors and outdoors. All condo units have high-efficiency dual-flush toilets, high-efficiency washing machines and low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators — significantly reducing the project’s indoor water consumption.

As a result of the small hardscape footprint of the residence’s hydraulic lift parking garage, the Victoria Garden Mews has room for a large central courtyard complete with 30 fruit trees, numerous water-wise plants and a vegetable garden. But this bountiful garden will not be a drain on the residents’ pocketbooks because it is designed to irrigate the plants solely with rainwater.

Rainfall is directed into roof gutters with double filtration systems at each downspout; the downspouts lead to a 14,000-gallon rubber “bladder” that hangs in the basement. The bladder filled up during only one of this past winter’s rainstorms, and Allen said that “this year is probably going to be the heaviest draw because we want to make sure the plants get established, so we are doing more irrigation than we will be in the future.” Still, the bladder has more water left in it to continue watering the garden this fall.

The central garden, designed by Grace Design Associates, is landscaped with water-wise plants, many of them native, which are not likely to need supplemental irrigation once they are established. The native plants draw in many beneficial insects.

“The plants were selected to invite butterflies, bees and other insects to create a dynamic living garden,” Allen said. “Now we are seeing more and more butterflies hatching in the garden.”

Additionally, the property is home to another set of residents: A bee hive provides pollinators for the garden and surrounding neighborhood.

The property also includes a remodeled Victorian home with a front lawn of UC Verde Buffalograss. This grass uses about 70 percent less water than a traditional lawn species, and requires little mowing. Allen believes the lawn will need to be mowed only a few times a year. In addition, the lawn is irrigated via a subsurface drip system that is underneath the grass, thus reducing water loss from evaporation.

The Victoria Garden Mews project is a model home for the Santa Barbara area, showcasing how sustainable development can be attainable and very low water using.

Congratulations to Allen on being a Water Hero.

— Alison Jordan is a water conservation coordinator for the city of Santa Barbara.

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