When a circa 1949 potato barn in Prineville, Oregon was under deconstruction, tranquility and harmony were not the words to describe the process. Three years later, under the thoughtful eye and hand of woodworker, Andrew Scott, the reclaimed lumber from that potato barn is creating tranquility, harmony, and beauty in the Desert Rain landscape. Scott is using the reclaimed wood from the potato barn to build gates and fences that create privacy and frame the views on the site. For the Desert Rain project, he wanted to represent the energy of the Living Building Challenge while respecting the environment, keeping a light footprint, and reflecting the nature of the project.
Scott wanted to soften the lines and hard edges of the structures with natural and organic imagery. His background in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine and the design of the project inspired his work. Images and symbols are carved on the tops of the posts – some visible, some out of view unless one knows where to look. The Chinese gate that enters the courtyard is supported by posts appropriately carved with a sun symbol on the right and raindrops or a snowfield on the left. The carvings represent yin yang, a primary guide to traditional Chinese medicine describing how contrary forces are complimentary and interconnected. Simplified, the yang side is male, fire, light. The yin side is earth, female, softness, water. How fitting that the name ‘Desert Rain’ invokes the concept of yin yang – contradictory yet interdependent, as the house needs the sun for energy and the rain for its water source.
Scott often incorporates hummingbirds into his woodworking and there is one at Desert Rain. Images of other regional wildlife grace the posts -an osprey, rattlesnake, and Great Blue Heron. The resident deer are represented by deer tracks at the entrance. The sense of discovery will be a delight to visitors as they tour the site and find art in the timbers and structures of the landscape.
Scott had not heard of the Living Building Challenge before Desert Rain. The biggest difference for him with this project was using reclaimed wood. He spent hours sorting through piles of 2” x 12”, weathered, barn boards searching for the right pieces that would sandwich the Forest Stewardship Council certified plywood on the privacy panels. He wanted wood with character; knots, grain, and lichen attached that will hopefully, continue to grow, bringing life and natural beauty to the boards. The challenges came with the FSC plywood that he could not have delivered to his shop as he is not FSC certified. Since the fences and gates are near the last elements to be constructed in the landscape, Scott had a very long wait to begin his work.
When asked how he became part of the Desert Rain team, Scott said he is friends with Barb and Tom. They spent 18 days together when he rowed for them on a float trip through the Grand Canyon where he got to know them well. He sees Desert Rain as a beautifully designed prototype to encourage other similar projects. Scott said, ‘I honor Barb and Tom for their vision and their energy and willingness to spend the money with this project. I am most fortunate to have been involved with this.’
Scott appreciates the artistic license he was given to be inspired by the site, the design, and the project. The top curve of the entrance gate gracefully curves upward. The curve is the same radius as the Miro wall that flows through the structure and into the courtyard interconnecting beauty and design. The posts that create the arch are carved with Chinese characters chosen by Scott for their significance to Desert Rain. Everyone who follows the path through the entrance gate will be embraced by Andrew Scott’s artistry and inspiration, into the realm of tranquility and harmony.
Hidden from view, within the walls of Desert Rain is an innovative, structural element composed of Forest Stewardship Council certified wood. The staggered, double wall, framed construction of the building envelope is extraordinary. It was designed and developed to meet the stringent energy standards of the Living Building Challenge . Though the FSC wood is not visible in the building envelope – FSC wood and reclaimed or salvaged wood is abundantly evident throughout the project. Inside and out – Desert Rain celebrates wood as an integral part of the project.
This September, Desert Rain entered the 9th Annual Design and Build with FSC Awards competition. ‘Each year at the US Green Building Council’s Greenbuild, the Forest Stewardship Council US recognizes excellence and innovation in the use of FSC certified building materials in commercial and residential construction. Award winning projects demonstrate that wood from responsibly managed forests can meet all design and construction needs. Selection criteria include the amount of FSC-certified wood used, innovation, and efforts to advance market transformation. The awards honor designers and builders who are committed to using FSC-certified wood and creating a marketplace that promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.’
Eligible projects, including residential, must use at least 50% FSC certified wood (by cost) of any new wood used. Desert Rain uses 100% FSC certified wood in the structural framing, the cabinetry, exterior cedar siding, and the Loewen window frames. Other woods used at Desert Rain are reclaimed or salvaged. The exterior soffits, interior ceilings, and trim showcase the lumber that was reclaimed from the deconstruction of the two original homes on the site and a nearby, potato barn. That lumber was re-milled and stored to be used as the construction progressed. The myrtlewood flooring is sourced through Slice Recovery in Coquille, Oregon. Myrtlewood from Slice Recovery is harvested as salvage, a by-product of the timber industry, cleaning up after the logging operations in fir and pine stands.
A significant component of the FSC certified wood use at Desert Rain is visually evident in the cabinetry. As a Living Building Challenge project, Desert Rain was obligated to use a FSC certified shop and cabinet maker. Owners, Barb Scott and Tom Elliott wanted someone local who understood the design, aesthetics, goals, and challenge of the project.
Gabriel Dansky, with Dansky Handcrafted joined the team. Dansky has been building custom, sustainably minded cabinetry for decades. He had used FSC certified wood in other projects. Desert Rain was the catalyst for Dansky to take the next step – becoming a certified FSC cabinet shop. Though the paperwork, auditing, time, and expense of the process could be daunting, Dansky forged ahead recognizing that market demands will drive FSC certification. He sees that people who request FSC wood are generally looking for a quality product that goes beyond price.
Dansky Handcrafted has now renewed their FSC certification to complete the work on Desert Rain. Dansky has embraced the Desert Rain project where he said, ‘everyone can take pride in the quality of their work’. Dansky worked with project designer, Al Tozer with Tozer Design to develop a design that showcases the beauty of the wood. The cabinets are an art form; the veneers are grain matched, flowing, and peaceful as they blend and accent the other elements and materials within Desert Rain.
From the structural framing to the finely, finished cabinetry Desert Rain celebrates wood. Wood is an essential and significant ingredient in the function and beauty of Desert Rain. On October 23 notice arrived that Desert Rain was the residential winner for the 2013 Design and Build with FSC Awards. Barb and Tom will soon attend the ceremony to accept the award for Desert Rain and the team. It is time to celebrate – the FSC, good wood, and Desert Rain! Congratulations Team Desert Rain!
Last Saturday Desert Rain welcomed participants of the Green and Solar Tour. The tour, presented by the Cascadia Green Building Council High Desert Branch included five commercial buildings and five private residences. Desert Rain was considered one of the most innovative and energy saving homes on the tour. Desert Rain is aiming for third party certification through the Living Building Challenge .
With landscaping well underway, arriving visitors were able to walk on the partially completed paths leading to the main house or to the accessory dwelling unit. The landscape design focuses on water conservation by using drought tolerant and native plants, permeable pavers and surfaces, and reusing the captured greywater for irrigation. The ‘Miro’ wall gracefully leads into the home and continues through the structure creating continuity between the indoor and outdoor spaces.
The hardscaping includes the use of lumber salvaged from the ponderosa pine that was removed from the site. Timbers are incorporated into the privacy fencing separating the accessory dwelling unit from the interior courtyard.
The textures, materials, and natural color tones of the hallway create a welcoming ambience. The American Clay on the walls, salvaged, myrtlewood flooring, FSC and reclaimed woods, and diamond polished cement floors are some of the elements helping Desert Rain achieve the Materials Petal for the Living Building Challenge.
The highly energy-efficient, triple paned, Loewen sliding glass doors open onto the south patio and interior courtyard. As part of the passive solar design, 90% of the windows in Desert Rain are south facing. The paving stones and decomposed granite used on the patio and pathways create a permeable surface allowing rainwater to flow through into the soil.
All the structures at Desert Rain are designed to maximize roof surface for rain water harvesting. The captured water is filtered and flows into a 35,ooo gallon cistern located beneath the garage where it travels through additional filtering processes before it arrives at the low flow (1.5gpm) faucets. The harvested water will be the source for all domestic water use, including drinking water.
Some of the Desert Rain team were on hand to help tell the story of building extreme green. Amy Warren (left) owner of Green Apple Construction and her partner, Josh applied the American Clay plaster throughout the house. Ani Cahill (right) is with Heartsprings Design, the landscape design team. E2 Solar owner, Mike Hewitt explained the 14.8kw photo voltaic modules to interested visitors. Tom Elliott, owner, Al Tozer designer with Tozer Design, and James Fagan and Kevin Lorda with Timberline Construction answered many questions about the design, construction, materials, and features of Desert Rain.
Green and Solar tour participants view, inquire, and admire the elements that put Desert Rain on the ‘bleeding edge’ of sustainability in the built environment. The Living Building Challenge stipulates education as part of the requirements of meeting certification. Desert Rain owners Tom Elliott and Barbara Scott have put out the welcome mat for a multitude of visitors during the past 3+ years that the design and building process has been underway. They recognize that Desert Rain is their dream and a demonstration project. Their hope is that each visitor will go away with ideas, inspiration, and awareness for what is possible.
Desert Rain has undergone a major transformation in the past year since the last Green+Solar Tour. Please join this year’s tour to see for yourself this extreme-green home striving to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge.
GREEN + SOLAR TOUR | SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2013
The High Desert Branch of Cascadia Green Building Council is proud to present Central Oregon’s 13th annual Green and Solar Tour. We are excited to highlight both commercial and residential projects that exemplify sustainable choices both for new construction and remodels. Check out the Tour website CLICK HERE and FACEBOOK PAGE HERE .
This Tour, which is free to the public, has historically drawn some 700 people through the doors of highlighted projects. With this Tour, we are helping Central Oregon realize tomorrow’s living future through the sustainable choices and actions we make now. Tour starts with a Kick-Off event with informational tables and exciting keynote speakers at COCC’s Health Careers Building. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. with first Keynote Speaker at 9:00 a.m. Homes and commercial buildings are open at 10:30.
About Cascadia Green Building Council: Cascadia is a chapter of the US Green Building Council and the Canada Green Building Council, with offices in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Cascadia’s mission is to lead a transformation toward a built environment that is socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative.
The Desert Rain owners and team are pleased to be part of the 2013 Green+Solar tour. Welcome!
Every trip to the Desert Rain site reveals changes and surprises as many aspects of the project are coming together and nearing completion. Color and texture abounds in the materials inside and out. The landscaping is underway with pavers, boulders, and gravel being installed. It is getting easier to walk about the site as holes get filled and ground is leveled. Electrician, Mike Wagnon has been diligently installing the LED lighting system throughout the project creating a warm glow. The myrtlewood flooring in the main house is being sanded. Many of the cabinets and built-ins are in place. Tile is up and grouted. Browse the photos for a current peek at the progress. We are working on a new photo Gallery page for the website that will keep you updated. Please check back and visit our Gallery/ New Progress.
The plaster story started almost a year ago when the installation of the chicken wire lathe on the structures began. This week, David Kaiser Jr., owner of Elite Plastering and his crew are wrapping up the final stages of the exterior, lime plaster. It has been a long process. Hand plastering and the preparation for plastering is time consuming but the extended lapse of time from start to finish is more indicative of the challenges of custom building, especially within the criteria of the Living Building Challenge. That time reflects waiting, weather, and the sequence of other pieces in the construction puzzle. David did not want to take the risk of cracks during the curing time frame due to impact on the structure while other trades were completing their work.
Once the chicken wire is in place the plastering can begin. With anticipation, the structures were draped in a plastic tent in December 2012. The covering allows for humidity and temperature control during the curing process.
David Kaiser developed his own lime plaster recipe for the Desert Rain project. All the materials; lime, clay, and sand, come from locations close to home – Deschutes River Woods, Prineville, and Washington state. The lime based plaster formula is based on the traditional mixes that were used during the Roman Empire. The use of lime in plastering applications dates back to the construction of Egyptian pyramids about 4000 B.C. It has since been refined and has found a place in green building applications.
Lime finishes, naturally high in pH, create an anti-bacterial surface neutralizing the development of organic substances such as mold and fungus. It is a breathable material that allows water vapor to permeate freely so moisture evaporates quickly. Roman plaster and slaked lime products absorb carbon monoxide from the atmosphere to chemically change it into limestone. This reaction not only increases the strength of plaster over time but has a great environmental benefit. Roughly, every 100 pounds of lime that is used will absorb approximately the same amount of CO2 that a tree does in a one year period. Lime may be beneficial in absorbing other toxins as well, passively removing them toward the outside environment.
The plaster at Desert Rain is a three coat process with the color being added to the final layer. Work began on the accessory dwelling unit. The first coat contains straw that acts as a binder to help the plaster adhere to the wire lathe. The layering process aids the curing process and creates consistency in the appearance and coverage.
A side note to the plaster story: Barb and Tom have set a guideline that everyone who works on the Desert Rain project must attend a Living Building Challenge presentation so they are aware of the scope of the project, the restrictions, and the goals. If contractors and subs cannot attend a live presentation they watch a video. Barb visited with the Elite Plastering crew. Comprised of mostly Hispanic workers, some with limited English, Barb was concerned they may have had difficulty comprehending the Living Building Challenge points and petals. As a result, the Desert Rain project will soon have a Living Building Challenge presentation video available in Spanish.
The final coat of plaster contains the color coat. The initial mix was applied to one of wall of the ADU as a trial. After drying, it wasn’t quite the color that was anticipated. With some tweaking of the tints, a color was approved and the plastering continued.
With the weather heating up this past week, the plastic sheeting has been rolled up revealing the final layers of plaster on Desert Rain. After a year of anticipation – the lime plaster exterior will soon be finished.
The plastering process has been an on-going story for most of a year. The initial chapter began July 2012, CLICK HERE to read more about the process and the product. The last walls will soon be covered in plaster. In two to three weeks curing time, Desert Rain will be unwrapped, revealed and finally – plastered!
A fleet of construction vehicles, workers, and projects are underway this week at Desert Rain. There is a bit of a hullabaloo over the recent news about water. Last Wednesday, the city of Bend approved the plan to treat and reuse the wastewater from the sinks, showers, and laundry by processing it through a constructed, bio-reactive wetland. Desert Rain is the first residential project in Oregon to receive state and city approval for its graywater treatment system.
click here to read the news in the Bend Bulletin
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality approved the plan on June 10. It has been a 3 year process of plan designs, permit rejections, and ‘back to the drawing’ board for Tom and Barb and Whole Water Systems. Morgan Brown, president of Whole Water Systems, refers to the wanderings and trials through the city and state permitting process, as an Odyssey. The process at Desert Rain prompted Morgan Brown, and ML Vidas, architect and Living Building consultant for Desert Rain to present a program at the 2013 Living Building unConference. Their session highlighted the lessons learned on the bleeding edge of green building as Desert Rain sought approvals for blackwater, graywater, and rainwater harvesting systems. In Morgan’s words, Whole Water and Desert Rain owners and team members ‘share the objective of setting an example that expands sustainable limits, is worthy of emulation and is financially accessible.’ A big sigh of relief and hooray, for graywater and rainwater harvest approval. Next on the list – the blackwater system that is still pending.
The plastering on the exterior walls is nearing completion as the final, colored coat is being applied. The ADU is finished after some tweaking with the color hue last week. The entire plaster story will be upcoming soon. The plastic that has been covering the structures for months will be removed after the final curing – what an exciting day that will be!
The Miro wall is nearly completed with the exception of an opening that will allow the landscapers to move equipment and materials around the site. The wall will provide privacy for the inner courtyard, a backdrop for a water feature, screening between Desert Rain and the ADU, and visual continuity from the exterior through the interior.
Inside Desert Rain the installation of the bathroom tiles is nearly completed and will soon be ready for grout. The recycled glass tiles cover a large portion of walls in the guestbath and the entire walk-in shower in the master bath. Doug Caihil, tiler, said there will be a few smaller, follow-up projects as other contractors complete their work.
Cabinet installation continues throughout the house. The Forest Stewardship Certified wood combined with the craftsmanship of Gabriel Dansky at Dansky Handcrafted, creates a dramatic impact in all the rooms. Watch for an upcoming story about the cabinet materials and process.
What’s next? Desert Lookout is the final structure proposed for the site. It will contain a composting/evaporator system, a garage, and yoga/fitness studio on the ground level. A dwelling unit will be on the upper floor. The existing garage from the original dwelling on the site will be deconstructed to make room for the new structure. Materials will be salvaged and stored for future use in other projects. The design and plans for Desert Lookout are in the early stages of the process: application for the site and use plan has been submitted and is pending approval.
The project continues to place great demands on Barb Scott and Tom Elliott. As owners, they have faced countless decisions, financial concerns, frustrations with timelines, scheduling, unknowns, and barriers – typical to any custom building project – magnified with Desert Rain and the demands of the Living Building Challenge. They have also realized success and elation as pieces of their extreme, green dream meet the challenge. Their persistence and patience is paving the way for the future of green building in Central Oregon and beyond. With the approval of the graywater system – the first in the state of Oregon – they indeed have much cause for celebration and hullabaloo. Congratulations Barb and Tom and the Desert Rain team!
Two places on earth provide the right habitat for the Myrtlewood tree to grow. One is in the Holy Land, the other is in Desert Rain’s backyard – a small section of coastal range from Coos Bay, Oregon to San Francisco, California. The fog and rain dampened areas along the riverbanks and hills are the right environment for the native, Oregon Myrtlewood to thrive. According to Sustainable Northwest Wood, Myrtlewood has long been sought after by woodworkers and luthiers for its’ tonal qualities. The unique grain patterns, hardness, luster and colors make it desirable for furniture, cabinetry, and floors.
The installation of myrtlewood flooring is underway at Desert Rain. The wood flooring arrived a few weeks ago and has been stored in the buildings, acclimating to the new environment. The myrtlewood used on the Desert Rain project was sourced through Slice Recovery in Coquille, Oregon. Myrtlewood from Slice Recovery is harvested as salvage, a by-product of the timber industry after logging operations in fir and pine stands. Tim Bones, owner and founder of Slice Recovery has been in the lumber recovery business in southern Oregon since 1977. The businesses is committed to balanced forest ecology.’
Myrtlewood flooring for Desert Rain is in random lengths and widths of 3, 4, or 5 inches. High Desert Hardwood Flooring in Bend is installing the flooring. Sonny, the owner said the salvaged wood is more labor intensive than manufactured woods due to variations in thickness, non-square ends, and random lengths. The beauty of the myrtlewood is the distinctive colors and patterns. The color of the wood is often influenced by the minerals in the soil where it grows. The base tones from golden honey to browns and grays are often laced with soft black accentuating the color and the wood grain. The flooring has been installed in the Accessory Dwelling Unit. It will be sanded to level the variations and then finished with a clear, low VOC sealer to allow the natural beauty to show. The salvaged myrtlewood will also be installed throughout the main house in the halls and rooms that do not have the polished concrete flooring.
High Desert Hardwood Flooring has seen an increase in the use of both salvaged and reclaimed woods. More of their clients are asking for greener building materials. Barnwood Industries in Central Oregon is one of their sources for reclaimed woods. The salvaged myrtlewood is a solid choice for unique and beautiful flooring. Myrtlewood has a natural ability to repel dust, pollen, and other allergens improving the home environment. The broadleaf evergreen can live for many hundreds of years, regenerating itself from its roots when branches are damaged. For many millennia Myrtlewood has been harvested for beneficial, medicinal and edible uses, improving and sustaining life. Now a desired material for environmentally responsible building, Myrtlewood continues the story – sustaining, sustainable, rare, beautiful, and for Desert Rain, close to home.
Every element of Desert Rain has a story. With the interior aspects of the project coming into place, the current chapter is tile. Doug Cahail is the tile master. He was working on the kitchen backsplash as we talked. Doug has tiled other green building projects but found the Living Building Challenge stringent guidelines to be, well, – a challenge.
Doug did the research on his own time to find setting materials, waterproofing agents, and grouts that are compliant with the Living Building Challenge Redlist and sourcing. He worked with suppliers and the Desert Rain team to find materials that meet the LBC standards. He said, ‘The difficulty is finding products that are green and maintain the integrity and strength necessary to keep tile on the wall and waterproofed.’ From the shower pans and the sealing for the drains to the thinset, grout, and caulking for the tile – every product had to be researched and then ‘vetted’ and approved by M.L. Vidas, the LBC consultant for the project. Doug said the time he put in ‘pro-bono’ on the research gives him information he can access for future jobs.
The tile being installed at Desert Rain is from a company called Fireclay. At their factory in San Jose, California they are turning trash to tiles. Tile from their Debris series is made from over 70% recycled content that is sourced within 50 miles of their factory. The recycled ingredients, including crushed toilets, save natural resources and make a hard, ceramic tile that can be used on floors, walls, or countertops.
Desert Rain is also using ‘Crush’ tiles from Fireclay. Crush is made from 100% recycled glass from local sources within 20 miles of the factory. The name ‘crush’ is appropriate to the process of collecting the pre-consumer, raw waste window glass, crushing and processing it at the factory and transforming the trash to sustainable and beautiful glass tiles. The fusing technology and kiln firing used at Fireclay creates recycled glass tiles that use less than one-fourth the energy in traditional cast-glass tile processing.
Fireclay Tile is a company committed to making a product that makes a difference in the built environment. They recycle in three different ways: by formulating tiles that utilize a majority of post-consumer and post-industrial waste materials, by processing internally produced scrap materials back into the clay bodies, and by finding special markets for tiles that do not meet their exacting specifications. The Fireclay company and founders have a long history of making decisions and products that are good for the environment, their employees, and customers. Doug Cahail, tile master on the Desert Rain project, is also to be commended for his diligence in pursuing the products and materials that meet the Living Building Challenge requirements. Doug will now have resources available for other green projects. He embraced the challenge and the idea of finding a way to make his profession more eco-friendly. The educational element of the Living Building Challenge transcends through the trades. A significant element of the Living Building Challenge is to find and support businesses, manufacturers, and contractors that are concentrating their efforts on sustainability, awareness, and equity in the built environment. Fireclay and Doug Cahail are mastering the tile trade.