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[caption id="attachment_31880" align="alignleft" width="135" caption="Martin Goldsbrough"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_31879" align="alignleft" width="135" caption="Michael Tarnoff"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_31881" align="alignleft" width="135" caption="Michael Cook"][/caption]

PETALUMA -- Civil engineering firm Land Development Solutions, Inc., of Petaluma and Michael A. Cook Landscape Architect of Santa Rosa merged to form Firma Design Group, which is taking a landscape-first approach to project design.

"I wanted to stay away from landscape architecture being an add on to a project, as it usually is," said Mr. Cook, RLA, CLIA, vice president of planning and landscape architecture.

Some other North Bay civil engineering firms, such as Carlile Macy,  have landscape architects or departments for such design.

With Firma, the civil engineering team will come to a project after planning for management and treatment of stormwater and water-efficient landscaping, Mr. Cook said.

"There has been a trend in the past few of years to get landscape architects involved much earlier in a project," he said.

Federal, state and local laws and policies call for builders and property owners to take increasily more active roles in improving water quality in surrounding waterways and making available water go farther through conservation. So project designs have to revolve around reduction of the amount of sediment in rainwater flowing off a property, increasing the amount of water allowed to percolate into a groundwater aquifer recharge and limit the amount of water used or wasted in landscape irrigation.

The merger creating Firma was effective March 1. It brought together Martin Goldsbrough and Michael Tarnoff, PE, of LDSI and Mike Cook. They had been talking about the combination for about one year, according to Mr. Cook.

Mr. Goldsbrough and Mr. Tarnoff formed LDSI in Novato in 2000. Mr. Goldsbrough's career spans nearly four decades of project management, entitlements, plan processing through government agencies and civil engineering. Mr. Tarnoff has been in civil engineering about 24 years. They added a second office in Petaluma and relocated there in 2006.

Mr. Cook has been in landscape architecture and project management for 11 years, the last three with his own firm. He recently earned Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor credentials from the Irrigation Association, allowing him to perform the inspections now called for under the California Building Code.

Firma also includes Kent Carothers, a licensed civil engineer, and Kristine Willis, a design engineer.

Recent projects by Firma Design Group principalsPlanning and landscape architecture

The Dwight Center for Conservation Science at Pepperwood Preserve, Santa Rosa

The Vistas at Kawana Springs (apartments, row housing, duets and custom lots), Santa Rosa

Celsius 44, Petaluma

Mixed-use (office, residential and retail) development, Rodeo

Ramekins Culinary School, Events and Inn, Sonoma

Lighthouse Christian Church, Sonoma

Various high-end residential projects throughout Sonoma CountyCivil engineering

Rose Garden homes and senior housing, Larkspur

The Vistas at Kawana Springs

Custom home at 505 Tamalpais, Mill Valley

Berkeley Delaware Court (four-story downtown townhomes), Berkeley

For more information, call 707-792-1800 or visit the Firma website.

CORRECTION, April 1, 2011: The principals of the two firms have been talking about the merger for about a year. Incorrect information was provided for the original version of the story.