Category Archives: Landscape Architecture

Information and comments regarding the profession of Landscape Architecture.

Functional Outdoor Spaces


With Spring and Summer right around the corner Firma Design Group can bring outdoor living to life.

Outdoor landscapes should align with the architecture of your home, which speaks to the quality of the home and community while making  a statement of one’s unique individuality.


By connecting the  outside to the architecture either by the layout, hardscape materials or plant design, this, is what inspires the soul and creates an outdoor functional entertainment venue.

All the while utilizing water sources responsibly, not only working closely with our civil engineers on stormwater management, but also by planning with water wise and native plants, quality drip irrigation systems and integrating hardscape designs into the overall plan, to mention  a few.


Our landscape architects and designers can be reached at (707) 792-1800.

To read a related article, click here.


Welcome Jim Del Carpio


Firma Design Group is pleased to introduce our newest Landscape Architect, Jim Del Carpio.

Wanting to relocate to Northern California, specifically Sonoma County, for some time he saw the job opportunity and wasted no time in taking it.  Jim brings to FDG 28 years of experience and a lot of enthusiasm.

We asked him some questions, read his answers below to get acquainted with him.

What led you in the direction of landscape architecture?

The idea and activity to design in and onto our physical environment.  As a young boy growing up next to an open, uncultivated three-acre field, I and my neighborhood friends would enjoy the constructing of bike/moto cross trails, jumps over water and “whoopee doos,” high berms in consecutive sequence and difficulty.  Furthermore, we would also dig up secret tunnels and dens, build secret forts and tree houses made out of locally found materials.

How long have you practiced Landscape Architecture/Design?

I have practiced landscape architecture and design from an early age of 12 years old, see above.  My formal education began in my late 20’s, early 30’s when I began to work with a landscape designer/builder.  I haven’t stopped since.

Where did you attend college?

Prior to transferring to Iowa State University, I nearly completed a two-year Associate of Arts degree in Landscape Design and Construction from South Seattle Community College.  I received my Bachelor’s degree with dual majors in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies from Iowa State University.

Where did you begin your career?

My professional career started prior to attending Iowa State University.  For several years,  I worked and constructed residential landscapes with a landscape designer and builder in Tacoma, Washington.

Why Firma Design Group?

Along with wanting to relocate here, I was drawn in by Firma’s diverse portfolio and services they offer to the community, with this I had no question as to whether or not I wanted this job.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy seeking and discovering new landscape (environmental) areas, the history, culture and recreation opportunities.  When not actively involved in outside activity I like to listen to music and lounge around the house.  I like to travel and would like to participate in adventure travel, preferably with my girlfriend.

Jim can be reached at 707.792.1800, ext. 108 or by email

What is your landscape worth!


As we continue with the fire recovery efforts and claims adjustments are being issued, Firma Design Group has been instrumental in assisting fire survivors in the valuation to replace the damage caused to their landscapes.  Most people don’t know that their landscape is typically 5% to 10% of their home value, but adds about 15% to its overall worth.

In an effort to help homeowners recover some of these costs FDG has been engaged in providing replacement and code upgrade estimates that can be submitted to insurance companies for supplemental increases to their claims.  This requires the review of any existing plans, photographs and site visits to collect the data necessary for the estimate.  Our years of experience in providing statements of probable construction costs, enables us to provide accurate estimates to replace what they once had. In addition, we review when the landscape was originally installed and provide a code compliance estimate to bring the new landscape up to current State or local Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) and CAL Green compliance.

As part of this community and survivors of the fires, Firma Design Group will be here to help assist in the recovery and rebuild efforts. We continue to look for ways to assist our community and provide valuable services to our clients. If you are in need of assistance or just need clarification of the rebuild process, we are here to support you.  We can be reached at (707) 792-1800.

Rebuilding and Landscaping

Landscaping is a vital part of our rebuilding process.

One very important aspect to rebuilding a stronger and safer city isCAPoppy for businesses and homeowners to landscape with native plants and trees which are less flammable  and keep up with proper maintenance which will reduce the chance of a fire spreading.

With this in mind, along with the knowledge that all plants can burn with enough heat, our professional landscape architects and designers can plan a more fire-resistant and beautiful landscape by planting fire-resistant, native plants which don’t accumulate dead wood, leaves, stems and are free of flammable oils keeping our properties safer.

Maple AcerOver the years, we have inadvertantly allowed our natural landscape of perennial grasses and annual wildflowers to give way to non-native, flammable grasses.   This combined with Northern California’s weather, dry conditions, relatively low humidity and winds which are condusive to fire, this non-native growth lends itself to allow fires to spread rapidly.  The fires then destroy seedbanks, young trees and shrubs before they are old enough to set seed which leads the landscape to convert to flammable grasslands.  These seedbanks allow for soft, new growth of native plants which provide food for our wildlife and with the lack of competition from shrubs, trees our annual wildflowers will grow and protect.

Along with planting, firescaping is of the utmost importance.Fire-safe garden  Firescaping is creating open space between plants by integrating hardscape elements for plant separation, such as flagstone, decomposed granite, rock walls, water features and other nonflammable elements, all of which lends itself to a beautiful and somewhat safer landscape.  Preventative maintenance of your landscape , pruning, weed control and sufficient irrigation also plays a vital role.

Give our Landscape Architects a call at 707.792.1800.

Stormwater Runoff


It’s that time of the year again…

Time to get ready for heavy rains and do our part to improve runoff that would otherwise flow into and pollute our waterways and cause erosion headaches.

Stormwater that flows down driveways, streets and outside areas goes into a storm drain which flows directly to the nearest creek, fish and wildlife habitats, recreational bodies of water and drinking supplies.  This water does not get treated and is polluted with many pollutants like motor oil, fertilizers, soapy car wash water, sediment from projects, litter and too many other pollutants.

With our creeks and waterways in mind, rain gardens are a natural and beautiful solution to reducing polluted runoff and helps in preventing erosion.  They function to help slow down, soak up and filter polluted runoff from downspouts, driveways and other hard surfaces.

To  start, directing rainwater from your roof to the rain garden is a feature designed to absorb more rainfall before it runs off your property while at the same time  reduces the amount and speed of runoff which helps with the prevention of erosion.  Next, plantingdudleya_beargrass native plants which adapt to local conditions and have extensive root systems making them more tolerant of the amount of water that comes in.  The deep root system encourages infiltration and helps absorb nutrients.  Then creating a berm, which holds water during heavy rains and redirects the water flow to your rain garden, preventing drainage issues elsewhere.

Rain gardens are easily maintained  and benefit both people and the natural environment.

Our talented Landscape Designers and Civil Engineers can help design the perfect rain garden and analyze your grading and drainage plans for your yard or business.  You can contact them at (707) 792-1800.

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

JULY = Smart Irrigation Month

SIM-Logo-ColorWe should have already installed a Smart Irrigation Controller.     It’s not only a greener idea, but these systems are convenient, save water and save money.

Smart Irrigation Systems are automated systems that can monitor sun exposure, temperature, wind,  soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use.  They automatically adjust your watering schedule while protecting your landscape investment.

Mike Cook, our Vice President here at Firma Design Group, is a  Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA), #00008031.  He can ensure you will get the most up-to-date, “truly smart” irrigation system, which fits your specific needs.

Being a Certified Landscape Auditor enables one to quantify and analyze landscape irrigation water use, make maintenance recommendations, determine irrigation uniformity and efficiency, develop  irrigation schedules and manage overall irrigation water use.  With a continuing education requirement to maintain one’s license, CLIA’s are well versed on the most up-to-date products and procedures.  To read more, click here.

To  contribute toward a truly sustainable landscape, below are additional considerations to explore to complement your smart irrigation system:

  • Rainwater Harvesting.  By capturing and storing rainwater you will have a supplemental water source for irrigating a landscape.  There are many forms of harvesting rainwater along with local regulations.
  • Green Walls.  A vertical, vegetative “living wall,” a green wall can be freestanding or part of a building and can help reduce the overall temperature of the building, improve the aesthetics and can even aid in water reuse, purification and retention.
  • Fertilizer Injection Systems (fertigation).  Fertigation is derived from the combination of fertilization and irrigation, this allows you to fertilize and irrigate a section of turf in one simple step, making it easier for nutrients to infiltrate plant root zones and eliminating the need for watering above and beyond the irrigation system’s scheduled program run time.
  • Audit your Sprinkler System.  Hire a CLIA to conduct an IMG_7038irrigation audit and uniformity test to verify areas are being watered evenly and appropriately, and make necessary adjustments.


To read more on Smart Irrigation systems, click here.  You can also contact Mike Cook at (707) 792-1800, x103 or by email at



Saving Water is…

Always a Must.


Even after  very heavy precipitation this winter, which exceeded  our target supply, we should always keep in mind how important it is to conserve.  On April 7th, 2017, Governor Brown lifted the Drought State of Emergency in most of California, which was implemented back in January 2014, while  stating, “Conservation must remain a way of Life.”

Here at Firma Design Group our Landscape Designers can help plan and design a sustainable landscape by introducing smart plants, which adapt to our climate, promote plant health, all the while, drastically reduce their water needs.  Our Designers are well versed in water smart plants.  Having the right plants and planting guidance can save in upwards of 70% – 90% of landscape irrigation water. Here in Sonoma County we are lucky to   have many Water Smart Plant Nurseries, Click Here, for your Water Smart Plant Guide.

Now how about a challenge?  We want to see how many gallons of water you save in a month.  It’s easy, just select a few water-saving tips from Sonoma-Marin’s water-savings calculator to start saving more than 20 gallons per day, both indoors and outdoors. Click Here, for the calculator.  For instance, did you know that just by shortening your daily shower by 2 minutes will save you 5 gallons?  Or, by fixing a leaky toilet will save you 30 gallons? Having a water-efficient drip irrigation system, 20 gallons or more?  Having a smart irrigation controller installed, 40 gallons?  A lot of ways to save a valuable resource. Make sure you comment the amount of water you saved.





Welcome Ric Hendricks

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Join us in welcoming Ric Hendricks as our Director of Landscape Architecture; we are excited to have him on our team.

Ric comes to Firma Design Group with 16 years of experience in Landscape Architecture in a wide variety of projects.

Mr. Hendrick’s diversity in his landscape architectural career has been a key component in becoming a well-balanced and rounded professional. He has a hands-on approach to directing a project from its beginning through the conceptual and design development process to construction documents and field observation. His project and office management skills incorporate project coordination, quality control, mentoring, client interface, sub-consultant oversight and governmental agency coordination. Ric’s wide range of design experiences includes the public and private sector with an in-depth understanding in the international design world. His work on award winning domestic and international projects encompasses sustainable designs, master planned communities, recreation facilities, streetscapes, commercial/retail, school/institutional, riparian ecosystem restoration, and storm water management.

Mr. Hendricks is a registered landscape architect and a member of the Northern California Chapter of ASLA. In addition, Ric is well versed in the LEED process and is a member and actively involved with the California Park and Recreation Society, and Bay Area Building Industry Association.

School & Community Projects:

• Creekside Elementary School & Sports Field, SRVUSD, Town of    Danville, California
• Twin Creeks Elementary School, SRVUSD, City of San Ramon, California
• Frog Community Park – 10.6 Acres, City of Dublin, California
• The Brickyard at Eastshore State Park, City of Berkeley, California
• Fire Station 36, City of San Ramon, California
• Cytomax Fields (Mustang Soccer Complex) Town of Danville, California

We asked Ric a few questions:

Was there anything specific that led you into Landscape Architecture?

I have always been interested in the outdoors, even from a very young age, but was introduced to the profession of Landscape Architecture by my horticulture teacher in high school. We had a couple of weeks to design a front yard of a residence and she was impressed with my design skills. I had no idea at the time what Landscape Architecture was, but she explained it to me and she felt I would be good at it. I also inherited the analytical and drafting skills from my grandfather; he was an engineer and very disciplined. Although, I never was very good at lettering; this is before CAD when we actually hand lettered.

How Long have you been a professional Landscape Designer?

I actually started in high school; my friend’s father owned some residential properties and I would design and install the landscape. However professionally, I have been practicing for 16 years.

Where did you attend college?

I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and received a Bachelors in Landscape Architect with a Minor in Geography and Anthropology.

Where did you begin your career?

I started my career with NUVIS Landscape Architecture and Planning in San Ramon, CA. I started as a designer and eventually become a principal and ran the San Ramon office. I spent 12 years with NUVIS and worked both on private and public projects. They included sustainable design, master planned communities, recreation/sports facilities, schools, commercial centers, streetscapes and riparian ecosystem restoration. For the last 6 years with NUVIS, I also had the great experience of working on international projects throughout China.

I not only enjoyed the diversity of the country and people, but also the scope and scale of the projects. I look forward to bringing my experiences to Firma Design Group.

Why did you choose to work for Firma Design Group?

FDG has a great track record of quality projects and I’m very thrilled to be working with our Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering teams to develop and create more exciting projects.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

Besides spending time with my wife, I enjoy photography and hiking/camping. I’m also looking forward to getting back into fly fishing.