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Santa Cruz Straw Bale Home

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Church of the Good Shepherd

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Healdsburg Family Residence

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Napa Residence

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The Esalen Lodge

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2117 San Pablo - Retail

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Verdant Structural Engineers (VSE), located on Codornices Creek in Berkeley, is a full service Structural Engineering firm. VSE continues the practice of Kevin Donahue Structural Engineers (KDSE), which began providing engineering services to architects, builders and owners in 2003. We provide structural drawings and calculation materials required for building permit submittals on a wide array of projects, as well as providing building consultation, expert advice and legal testimony.

VSE works on a large variety of projects ranging from home remodels to the new construction of schools, wineries and other commercial and public buildings. We specialize in projects utilizing optimal and efficient use of conventional building materials as well as projects utilizing environmentally sensitive building materials and methods such as straw bale, rammed earth, cob, adobe and bamboo. VSE continues KDSE’s history of working closely with the natural and green building community to develop standards, practices and procedures for green building practices, such as the current Straw Bale Appendix Chapter in the International Residential Code.

VSE practices collaborative design. We work closely with project design and construction teams to understand the project as a complete system, so that project goals are achieved. We balance building efficiency and design elegance with cost and environmental goals. Above all, VSE is sensitive and responsive to clients' needs.

In addition to California, VSE has practiced in the following states: Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.


News and Research

Building Code Development

VSE has assisted in authorship of a number of recent International Building Code additions and proposed additions for natural building structural systems.



Straw Bale Building Detail Book

VSE was a contributor the Straw Bale Building Detail book published by the California Straw Building Association (CASBA) earlier in 2019. VSE extends a big thank you to all of those involved. Get your copies HERE!

Design on Strawbale Buildings

Kevin is a contributing author to the book Design of Straw Bale Buildings by Bruce King et. al. (Green Building Press, 2006)


What is Strawbale Construction?

Strawbale construction uses baled straw as stackable blocks in wall systems. Plaster is typically applied to the interior and ... Read More

In-plane and Out-of-plane Behavior of Strawbale

Part 1 of this article showed that, for in-plane loading, plaster skins on strawbale walls act as cantilevered vertical rectangular sections braced by the straw bales. This differs ... Read More

Remixing Modern Masonry With Watershed Block

In August 2014, the strongest earthquake in two decades struck the Bay Area of California, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, killing one person and ... Read More

Clay houses in quake country?

Making homes out of clay, sand and straw — a material called “cob” — might raise eyebrows in earthquake country, but Bay Area devotees are hoping to gain acceptance for ... Read More

First permitted cob structure in Berkeley could pave way for more green building

Berkeley native Jessica Tong was not used to the scorching heat she encountered in Hopland, California. While interning at the Solar Living Institute there, the environmental builder ... Read More

The False Promise of Green Housing

THE METRO Toronto Convention Centre, a towering complex of glass, steel, and concrete, is the kind of structure Chris Magwood has spent decades denouncing. Yet the specialist ... Read More

Eunice Street Remodel - AIA East Bay

Real Estate Agents Matt Vance and Peter Ashbaugh discovered a rare mid-century modern home in North Berkeley and recognized its potential. The house had been designed by ... Read More

Natural building materials for carbon-conscious design

Northern California has a historic place in the counterculture movement, and with this a widespread culture of sustainably minded alternative living communities. This has made the use of natural building... Read More


Berkeley Design Advocates Award for Design Excellence
“Flagg Studio” 1208 Shattuck Ave
Business Environmental Award, Sustainable Built Environment
Project Green Home, Palo Alto
California Preservation Foundation Design Award
Church of the Good Shepherd
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assoc. Preservation Award
Church of the Good Shepherd
Berkeley Design Advocates Award
Mission Heirloom Garden Cafe, Berkeley
Berkeley Design Advocates Award
Church of the Good Shepherd, Berkeley
Berkeley Design Advocates Award
Infill Retail, 2117 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
AIA East Bay Merit Award
Santa Cruz Straw Bale House, Santa Cruz
Berkeley Design Advocates Award
5th & Addison Live/Work, 2209-11 5th St., Berkeley
Berkeley Design Advocates Award
1625 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley


Kevin Donahue, SE - Principal

Kevin Donahue has been practicing structural engineering for over 25 years. Kevin’s original background is in mathematics. He earned Bachelor’s degree in Math from Brown University in 1980, and proceeded to branch out into architecture, teaching and music, performing in many well-known Bay Area music venues. He was a visiting lecturer at Cornell University in 1986. In 1989 he earned dual Master’s degrees in Architecture and in Structural Engineering and Mechanics from University of California, Berkeley. Kevin began his structural engineering career with Toft & de Nevers (later Toft, de Nevers & Lee), where he also obtained his Civil and Structural Engineer licenses. Since opening his own office in 2003, he has endeavored to marry the technical with the expressive in his engineering practice, from an interest in working with alternate and “green” building materials, to a collaborative approach to problem solving while working with his architectural and building clients.

Kevin is a contributing author to the book Design of Straw Bale Buildings by Bruce King et. al. (Green Building Press, 2006), is currently serving on a task force of structural engineers and architects charged with introducing straw bale construction to the International Building and Residential Codes, and currently resides happily in Berkeley with his wife and their daughter’s cat.

Anthony Dente, PE - Principal

As a professional engineer and VSE Principal, Anthony is committed to the effective and efficient use of material for all building systems. He strives to assist the natural and green building communities by providing leadership for the development of design procedures for natural and green materials and systems, which in turn increases the safe and effective options available to future engineers.

Anthony graduated from the Architectural Engineering program at Penn State University and moved to Berkeley, CA to practice structural design and in particular, straw bale structural design, under Kevin Donahue, SE. Anthony is a board member for the Cob Research Institute (CRI), an organization committed to the development of accessible permitting procedures for cob and other similar earthen materials. In conjunction with CRI, Anthony was the lead engineer of the currently proposed Cob Construction appendix to the International Residential Code (IRC), the first of its kind in the United States. Anthony was a working group member for the development of the first low carbon concrete building code, which was commissioned by Marin County, and organized by the Embodied Carbon Network and the Ecological Building Network. He was also contributed to the Straw Bale Building Detail book published by the California Straw Building Association (CASBA). Anthony has advised, designed, and collaborated in numerous university-based, small scale, and full scale testing programs on the structural behavior of natural materials. He has presented on these topics at various conferences including the West Coast Natural Building Conference and Earth USA.

Anthony believes that by supporting appropriate documentation and code development of environmentally sustaining options, the building community will have the tools to design against the hazards of environmentally destructive construction as effectively as it designs against other safety hazards in the building code.

Kelsey Holmes Foster, PE - Principal

Starting her engineering career on the East Coast, Kelsey worked on a variety of structures including a space shuttle launch pad, bridges, and dams. Since moving to California in 2014, she has focused her career on structural engineering of residential and commercial buildings, merging the skills needed to design for California-specific seismic loading with the ability to support the vision of architects and designers. She has always been inspired by sustainable design, and is excited to be a part of VSE’s work in the green building community. Kelsey holds a B.A. in economics from Mount Holyoke College, a Bachelors of Engineering from Dartmouth College, and a Masters of Engineering from Tufts University. She is a licensed Civil Engineer in California. Outside of work, Kelsey enjoys crafts like cooking, sewing, and knitting, as well as running and hiking around the Bay Area.

Wilzen Bassig, PE - Engineer

Wilzen graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a minor in Sustainable Design. He has been interested in building things ever since he was a little kid, whether it was out of popsicle sticks, cardboard, paper, or whatever he could find lying around. While he was a student, he was part of the Steel Bridge Competition Team, a member of the National Civil Engineering Honors society, and president of a Filipino engineering club.

When not at work, he enjoys DIY projects, learning magic tricks, playing the guitar, and watching sports.

Rebecca Anaya - Bookkeeper/Office Manager

Rebecca enjoys supporting the team at Verdant Structural Engineers by managing office operations, bookkeeping, and human resources. Previously, Rebecca worked in a similar role at a nonprofit social enterprise. She has also provided money management services and social services to older adults, and held information management roles within the fields of publishing and higher education development.

Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts and a Master of Social Work from San Jose State University. She has also completed coursework for a certificate in Professional Fiduciary Management for Conservators at California State University, Fullerton. She enjoys tapestry weaving and gardening in her spare time.

Colt Bender, EIT - Designer

Colt’s life in engineering advanced from Legos and blanket forts to concrete canoes and steel bridges while pursuing a structural engineering degree at UCSD and working as a research assistant at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Colt has always been interested in the bigger picture, particularly in the fundamentals that make life possible and worth living - shelter, food, water. Following these interests, he pursued a Master’s program in Natural Hazard Management in Taiwan - a country well versed in designing for complications in a dynamic world. After completing the three-year program, Colt found a home at VSE, where he strives to grow as an engineer, practicing sustainable design and learning to apply the best material and solution to the job at hand.

When not doing his best for the company and client, Colt may be found on his bike or practicing street photography.

Jill Cleveland, PE - Engineer

At a young age Jill’s grandfather would bring her into his office to teach her about civil engineering with his own residential design practice. He would show her plans, run through calculations, and bring her to project sites. Ever since, she has had a connection and passion for residential design.

Jill graduated from California Polytechnic State University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and started her career in the industrial sector. In transitioning to residential design with VSE as a recently licensed Civil Engineer, she is excited to design with alternative and sustainable building materials.

In her spare time, Jill enjoys taking fitness classes, finding new hikes, and petting any and all dogs.

Elli Terwiel, EIT - Structural Designer

Elli joined Verdant Structural Engineers in 2018. Elli is passionate about combining her love of structural systems and green building to come up with the best design solutions. Elli has experience in construction management and structural engineering design. While at Verdant, Elli has helped clients with projects ranging from strawbale residential construction to multi-story mixed-use commerical.

Elli graduated from the University of Vermont (UVM) with an Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering and a minor in Green Building. Elli also has a Masters degree in Management of Innovaton and Entrepreneurship from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. During her time at UVM, Elli was a member of the UVM Varsity Ski Team where she helped her team win NCAA championships in 2012. She was also a professional athlete as a member of the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team and competed for Canada at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Slalom event during this time. Elli has since retired from her professional ski career but still can be found almost every weekend up in the mountains.

Francisco Ordenes, EIT - Structural Designer

Francisco is originally from Chile, where he studied Civil Engineering at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso. He became interested in engineering in high school while learning woodworking. His passion for residential projects started when he helped his father remodel his childhood home.

Before coming to the United States, Francisco worked as a Teaching Assistant for seismic engineering courses at the Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso. He has always been interested in seismic design, inspired by personal experience in Chile, which is known for its seismic activity and the high intensity of its earthquakes. He saw the impact of these earthquakes on structures firsthand while inspecting damaged buildings in his role as Technical Assistant with his alma mater.

After moving to the United States, he has continued to work towards a career in engineering. He is very excited to have found a home at Verdant Structural Engineers, where he can perform structural design with alternative and sustainable building materials.

In his spare time, you can find Francisco (his friends call him Pancho) enjoying the outdoors, hiking and fishing around the Bay Area with his dog and wife.

Nora Murray, PE - Engineer

Nora graduated from Cal Poly, SLO with a BS degree in Architectural Engineering and a minor in Dance. She earned an MS degree in Civil Engineering from UCLA. Nora started her career as a design engineer working on residential and commercial structures in Southern CA. After earning her Civil Engineering license in CA in 2007, she transitioned from design work to field work. As a Field Engineer, she spent most of her time on construction sites performing Structural Observations. Nora split her time between construction sites and the classroom, working as an Adjunct Engineering Instructor for the Los Angeles Community College District teaching engineering mechanics courses. Since moving to the East Bay, she has enjoyed teaching at Contra Costa College and is excited to join the Verdant team and return to practicing design work, with an emphasis on sustainable design. In her spare time, Nora enjoys spending time in nature, looking for treasures at thrift shops, and exploring the Bay Area.


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1101 8th St. #180, Berkeley, CA     (510)528–5394