BallettoIt was our honor to be approached by the Balletto Family to design the entry monumentation and driveway remodel for Balletto Vineyards.  In 2013/2014, we assisted the Balletto’s with a large production building addition.

Our aim is to create an entrance experience as prominent and tasteful as the establishment the family has created.  In our vision for the entrance, we are incorporating a multi-level natural stone Gate Elevationwall that grows larger as you approach a custom, subtlety-symbolic gate.  The driveway that leads off the main road and funnels through the gate will be paved with concrete pavers and accented by colored-concrete banding.  The site, located on rural Occidental Road, called for grasses and perennials that would blend in with the formal country setting prominent throughout the Balletto’s property.  The materials used 2017.06.13. PLANT_PALETTE5in this project were selected to compliment each other, the winery itself, and its surrounding environment.  The intent of the proposed design is to signify visually the main entry of the winery.

Julia Zhu, Junior Engineer

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Join Firma Design Group in welcoming  our new Junior Engineer, Julia Zhu.

Julia came to Firma Design Group after earning her Major in Environmental Engineering and her PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Alabama.  She works with our Civil Engineers with much enthusiasm and loves solving engineering problems with analytical and logical thinking.

Julia answered a few questions, here are her responses:

Why Engineering, what drew you towards engineering?

When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to meet with the designer of our school.  He gave us a speech on how he designed our campus and how he overcame challenges.  I became interested in civil engineering after this unforgettable conversation.  After I graduated from high school, I chose civil and environmental engineering as my major and earned my PhD in civil engineering.

When and where did you start and end your education?

I began my undergraduate studies at Harbin Institute of Technology, China in 2009, finishing in July 2013.  Then I attended University of Alabama and earned my Master’s degree in December of 2015 and my PhD in May of 2017.

Have you interned or worked in this field?

Yes, I worked as part-time Assistant Civil Engineer from 2010-2013.  Then I worked as a Civil Research Assistant from 2013-2017, with a focus on storm water management.

What interested you in Firma Design Group?

After studying and working in engineering for eight years, I developed multiple civil engineering skills.  My interdisciplinary experiences are a great match for FDG and I believe FDG is the place where I can make contributions to and develop myself.  In addition, FDG’s great reputation and its focus on sustainable and “green” project designs matched my interests.

Outside of work Julia likes to hike, jog, do yoga and read on the beach.  In her free time,  she likes baking desserts.

You can reach Julia at (707) 792-1800, ext. 113 or by email

Welcome Haleigh Reyes

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Join us in welcoming Haleigh to Firma Design Group.  Haleigh joins us with an excitement to learn and grow like no other.  Knowing what she enjoys, the outdoors and creating, along with a snap decision is what  led her into a world of proactive, holistic and tangible creativity.   Ultimately leading her to Firma.

Get to know more about Haleigh by her responses to a few questions.

Why Landscape Design?

Well, I was 18 and knew I enjoyed two things, the outdoors and creating.  I was actually flipping through Cal Poly’s catalogue when I became aware of landscape architecture.  I walked into the landscape architecture department the next day and asked if I could change into the major without knowing much of anything about it.  That snap decision ended up leading me into a world of proactive, holistic and tangible creativity.  I found that I love the act of creating places that knit together the built and natural world.  Plus, sometimes I feel like I’m painting with plants; they are dynamic and have an endless depth of color,  texture and movement!

When and where did you start and end your education?

I started and ended my formal education at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  I am continuing my education every day I show up to work in the field!  There is still so much to learn!

Have you interned or worked in this field, prior to FDG?

I worked at a small landscape architecture and planning firm in San Luis Obispo.  They hired me after my internship and I am so grateful for the exposure they gave me to the professional world.

What interested you in Firma Design Group?

Firma Design Group is comprised of highly experienced and humble individuals.  They are talented and driven.  They are exactly the kind of professionals I was looking to learn from.  It was clear from the very beginning that although every person in the office has a role, above all,  they are a team.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

I was lucky enough to relocate from the central coast to the beautiful City of Santa Rosa!  Most of my time is spent getting to know the area and the neighboring towns.  I enjoy putzing around town on my bike, finding my favorite houses and overgrown gardens.  I love walking through the rural cemetery and trying to make out the words on the weathered tombstones.  Annadel State Park is just five miles from my house and I spend most mornings running through the oak-woodland and up into fern-covered understory of the redwoods.  The ocean isn’t too far so I try to connect with it on the weekends with a good brew, a baguette, some stinky cheese and a book.  If not sitting seaside, then I’m out at the river falling into sun-induced comas in-between chapters and sips of something cool and bubbly.  I love where I live and not knowing anybody gives me the time and freedom to explore as I please.  This place is just what I needed.

You can reach Haleigh at (707) 792-1800 or by email at

Landscape Design + Irrigation = Savings

water-sense-logo-designThe partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense and Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT)  are focused on managing water efficiently.  No matter which state we live in, we should all be concerned with water shortages and do our best to manage water efficiently.

SWAT is an international initiative to achieve efficient landscape water use through the application of irrigation technology.  SWAT provides product testing results to the public by identifying, researching and promoting technological innovations and related management practices that advance the principles of efficient water use.

Irrigation  experts draft protocols which define scientific methods to evaluate whether products meet established standards for efficient water-use. SWAT then formulates performance testing plans for different categories of irrigation products.  Third-party testing agencies evaluate whether irrigation products submitted by manufacturers actually save water.

WaterSense uses testing data to certify products that meet certain requirements.  They partner with irrigation professionals. manufacturers, retailers, distributors, home builders,  and utilities to bring WaterSense concepts to communities throughout the country.   The WaterSense labeled products and services are certified to save at least 20 percent less water; save energy and perform well, with the emphasis on performance.

With this partnership focusing more efforts on outdoor irrigation products the number of WaterSense-certified, weather-based irrigation controllers have doubled since last year.

You can contact Firma Design Group’s Vice President, Landscapeiaauditorlogo Architect and Licensed Landscape Irrigation Auditor, Mike Cook to  design a landscape plan and irrigation plan which will get you the most out of these products.  Mike knows where and what to plant for your specific climate and property. Mike knows the importance of planting, maintaining and developing a landscape which will have a positive impact on your water use and give you a long lasting beautiful landscape.

Mike can be reached by phone at (707) 792-1800 or email at