Living Building Challenge








Living Building Challenge Desert Rain House ViewDesert Rain is a home being constructed in Bend, Oregon to satisfy the rigorous International Living Building Challenge . The home’s lead designer is Al Tozer Jr., of Tozer Design. Please contact us for further information.

In the summer of 2009, Tom Elliott and Barbara Scott conceived the idea of building an extreme, green home. Their initial design goal, set forth below, was to design and build a LEED certified home using the latest ‘green’ technologies.

Later that fall, when well into the design process, they heard a Bioneers presentation by Jason McLennan, the originator of the Living Building Challenge. Galvanized by that presentation, Tom and Barb carried the Living Building Challenge 1.0 back to their design team and threw the gauntlet on the table–“We can build a residence that meets this challenge.”

Thus began a long and arduous journey to design (and re-design) a home that would satisfy all of the requirements of the Living Building Challenge. This website, the Desert Rain weekly blog, the forum, and press coverage detail the teams, the process, the people, and the gradual unfolding of our Living Building Challenge home–Desert Rain.

sign and houseIntroducing our Living Building Challenge home, Desert Rain, located in Bend, Oregon.

• A Residential Compound featuring a Main House + Two Detached Apartments and 3 Garages

• Warm, Modern, Clean + Super Green

• 100% net-zero energy

• 100% self-contained rainwater collection

• 100% processing of wastewater

• carbon neutral and red list approved

A few photos of Desert Rain.  For more images, click here for our extensive Photo Gallery.

We’ve documented our journey with images.  Go here to see the Desert Rain story and the incredible community of people who have been part of the project.

  • Meet the design team.
  • Learn more about the builders.
  • Check out the many sub-contractors involved in the project.
  • View the various systems and components.
  • Learn more about the innovative materials used throughout.

About Us

In the fall of 2009, Barbara Scott and Tom Elliott decided to take a break from their construction project in Bend, Oregon and go back-packing in Arizona. Still in the design phase, the home—which they were calling their “Extreme Green Dream”—was to be LEED-certified, and packed with sustainable features. As they drove across the Desert Southwest, Tom and Tom and Barb deserve much appreciation for their pioneering spirit, persistence, and vision for breaking barriers with the Desert Rain project.Barb picked up coverage of the Bioneers Conference on National Public Radio. Plenary speaker Jason F. McLennan was talking about something he called Living Buildings. He began by asking his listeners to compare two unlikely things: buildings and flowers.

“Both are literally and figuratively rooted in place,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s where the metaphor ends. But I don’t think it should.” He went on to explain: a flower gets all its energy from current solar income. It gets all the water it needs from the precipitation right around it. It doesn’t pollute; in fact, it creates habitat. And it is beautiful.

“Now, shouldn’t this be the same set of metrics by which we judge architecture?”

Barb and Tom drove on, transfixed as McLennan laid out his idealistic vision, which he called the Living Building Challenge. The program included several uncompromising “Imperatives.” At minimum, projects must produce as much energy as they consume. They must harvest and process all water on-site. They must be made with local materials, and cannot include anything on something called the Red List, a collection of fourteen-point worst-in-class chemicals and substances.

“Without hesitation, we knew we wanted to do this,” says Barb.

Tom and Barb realized following the Living Building Challenge represented a commitment, but they had no idea of its magnitude.

Five years and one wild ride later, a new cluster of Living Buildings has bloomed in Bend, Oregon. Desert Rain is a residential compound, located on the edge of an historic downtown neighborhood. The focal point is the building called Desert Rain: a 2236-square foot, one-story residence with a stucco exterior, graceful rooflines and a striking curved wall which greets visitors on approach. The wall threads through the building and exits out the opposite side, near a walkway which connects this main residence to the other buildings: a 489 square foot accessory dwelling unit called Desert Sol, a 512 square foot detached garage, which supports more solar panels and houses the rainwater collection cistern, and Desert Lookout, an 815 square foot second dwelling above a garage and central composting system.

  • Crafted with love

    Desert Rain is the culmination of over six years of effort by dozens of people to express their understanding of sustainability through design and craftsmanship.

  • Beauty by nature

    Incorporating biophilia throughout, Desert Rain reflects the beauty of the surrounding landscape and echoes universal and sacred themes common to most cultures.

  • Net Positive Energy

    Desert Rain is designed to produce enough photovoltaic power for the five buildings, various systems, and still power two electric vehicles year around.

  • Water Independent

    Desert Rain harvests and stores rainwater to meet 100% of it’s water needs.  It is the first potable residential rainwater collection and distribution system within a municipality in the state of Oregon.

  • All Reclaimed Water Used on Site

    100% of the water from sinks, showers and washing machines is reclaimed through an underground constructed wetland to be reused for irrigation onsite.  Desert Rain is the first Class II collection, processing and storage facility certified in the State of Oregon.

  • Blackwater Processed Onsite

    All of the blackwater (sewage and dishwasher water) is processed through our innovative system that incorporates the first residential Jets vacuum flush toilet system in the U. S., a commercial composting unit, and a solar hot-air evaporation device.