The Scratch Coat of Stucco

October – Progress in Pictures

It’s hard to believe October has ended, but a look back at the work done at Desert Lookout proves it has been a busy month. Inside and out, dramatic progress is visible. Stucco and tile, trim and stairs… we’re all getting very excited by the signs that we are nearing the end of construction.

The Scratch Coat of Stucco

Elite Plaster applied the base – or “Scratch Coat” – of stucco early this October.

Scratch Coat

The grooves of the base layer of stucco will be hidden by the finish layer.

We’re making leaps and bounds with our water treatment system.

Desert Lookout Composting Toilet

The toilet in Desert Lookout is a traditional composting toilet – going directly to the Phoenix unit on the main floor.

Dishwasher connection

Not just a hole – this area has been dug up to disconnect the dishwasher from the sewer. It is now going to the composter/evaporator unit in Desert Lookout.

Surface finishes like tile are being installed.

Jason is installing tile some if is left over from Desert Rain and some has been collected as remnants from other construction projects in Bend.

Jason is installing tile. Some of it is left over from Desert Rain and some has been collected as remnants from other construction projects in Bend.

Finish work is well underway. Window and door trim is in, stair treads have been installed, and beautiful details are being added.

Steve is working with Versatile Carpentry to install the finish work at Desert Lookout.

Steve is working with Versatile Carpentry to install the finish work at Desert Lookout.

Tamarack Stair Treads

Pieces of Tamarack ready to be made into stair treads for Desert Lookout.

Tom and Bill

Tom and Bill from Versatile Carpentry find time for a little silliness while installing the finish trim to Desert lookout.

Finish Carpentry

Rather than source the wood needed to create a specific style of finish work, we are using remnants from Desert Rain and customizing the finish work to meet the supplies we already have.

Tamarack

From Trees – Honoring the Wood We Use

Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tamarack

A beautiful, healthy Tamarack still looks over the Desert Rain Compound.

Similar to understanding where our food comes from, understanding where the wood we use comes from is important to the entire Desert Rain process.  From the very beginning of this project, Barb and Tom have given a great deal of thought to the trees on the property, those recently harvested elsewhere (FSC only), and those harvested long ago who still offer immense value.  From the reclaimed lumber of previously existing houses on site and the memorial ponderosa, to the tamarack now being milled for Desert Lookout, Barb and Tom are mindful about the trees involved.

Memorial Ponderosa Plaque

The Memorial Ponderosa Plaque welcomes guests in the entry of Desert Rain.

When the large , 201 year old ponderosa on the property had to be taken down, Barb, Tom, friends, and volunteers planted 201 ponderosa saplings in Shevlin Park on the westside of Bend. They further memorialized the beautiful tree with a memorial plaque, created by Bill Sturm of Oregon Timberworks, and with a new tree planted inside the old ponderosa’s stump.

The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value. ― Theodore Roosevelt

Tamarack Stair Treads

Pieces of Tamarack ready to be made into stair treads for Desert Lookout.

And now, wood from another, smaller Tamarack is being milled for use on site.  The tree had to be taken down, but rather than having it chopped it up for firewood or having it hauled off like yard debris, the beautifully grained wood will continue to be a part of the Desert Rain compound.  The team from Versatile Carpentry has just finished installing the Tamarack stair treads in Desert Lookout. They will be an elegant connection to this place for many, many years to come.

Stonework on Desert Lookout

September: Progress in Pictures

September came in fits and starts for us with the construction of Desert Lookout – the newest part of our Living Building Challenge Project. We took huge steps forward, followed by small sticking points, and then more big lurches forward. This is nothing new for a building outside of the traditional box and we continue to keep our enthusiasm for moving forward.   Installing the Phoenix composting system was a huge mile stone for us. You can read more about how this component will  compost and treat our blackwater here.

Tom and Advanced Composting Systems

Tom and Glenn Nelson from Advanced Composting Systems in front of the newly installed black water composter.

Blackwater Composter

Our new Phoenix will compost our black water – a very important part of the LBC water petal.

The Phoenix Composting ToiletWe’re very pleased to be including biophilia into our landscaping:

New plants for Desert Rain

New plants for Desert Rain from Winter Creek Restoration are ready for planting.

Desert Lookout will have a hybrid insulation system which helps us manage expenses while maintaining a high level of insulation.

Blow in with spray foam hybrid insulation

A hybrid insulation system is helping us manage expenses during construction while providing long-term benefits.

We moved beyond another challenge of building a LBC project, getting the eve trimmed back.

Trimming the eve

We had to trim back the original eve to allow for the solar collector.

drying out the cistern

The leak in our grey water cistern had to be repaired. A large fan was used to dry it out before applying a new layer of waterproofing.

Bob Buckmann with TVM

Bob Buckmann with TVM was in the grey water cistern, checking on a new layer of waterproofing.

Richard from Clausen Drywall.

Richard from Clausen Drywall has been drywalling since he was a teenager, working for his dad.

Hand texture for the drywall is complete

Hand texture for the drywall is complete.

Jared and Scott from American Painting and Prefinish .

Jared and Scott from American Painting and Prefinish are staining the wood siding.

ready for stonework

While we get ready for stonework, Winter Creek Restoration has been planting.

Ready for stonework

We’re ready for stonework.

 

Stonework on Desert Lookout

Stonework on Desert Lookout.

Another month down. And we’re ready for October!

Tom and Advanced Systems Composting

Installing the Composter for Composting Toilets

Last week, Glenn Nelson from Advanced Compositing Systems (ACS), made the trek from Whitefish, Montana to Bend, Oregon to deliver and install our blackwater composter. Earning the LBC Water Petal requires that all of the water on the Desert Rain property is collected as well as treated for use again and again. Having a system of composting toilets means that all of the backwater onsite will be treated, making it safe to reuse for landscape irrigation. (see graywater and blackwater permitting)

 

Tom and Advanced Systems Composting

The Phoenix Composting Toilet

ACS manufactures the Phoenix Composting Toilet out of rotationally molded polyethylene. The polyethylene used in the interior baffles is post-industrial recycled. The Phoenix Composting Toilet

How does the Composter work?

At first, the composting chamber is “charged” with wood shavings, peat moss, and water to provide an environment that will be conducive to biological decomposition. Waste, brought from the residences toilets to the composter via a vacuum system, will gradually build up in the tank and decomposes through the action of aerobic bacteria. The Desert Rain system will include vermicomposting – adding worms to aid the process. Within in the composting unit, there is shaft with tines that is rotated to mix the decomposing waste and ensuring adequate oxygenation.

Blackwater Composter

Closing the Loop

In the immediate future, the traditional water toilets will be replaced with vacuum toilets. We’re looking forward to seeing the first installed in the ADU so we can conduct some initial testing on the system. Then, it’ll be all systems go!

Solar Collector Panels at Desert Lookout

The Challenges of the Living Building Challenge: an Unglorious Look at Our Experience

We haven’t spent much time discussing the challenges of the Living Building Challenge, but this month certainly exemplified some of the challenges we have faced throughout the process of creating Desert Rain. August has been marked by delays, unknowns, and revisions – all of which, over time, have weighed on Tom and Barb as well as the rest of the Desert Rain Team.

Don and Bill

Don Kruse and Bill Mastous of TAC are all smiles after finishing the wood siding and soffit for Desert Lookout.

Living Building Challenges

It’s important to point out that we have been fortunate to have a team brimming with optimism and dedication from the start. Without each person’s willingness to work through problems, discover solutions, and muscle through the tough times, our project would surely not be as beautifully functioning as is it today. That said, there have been many challenges that pushed each team member near their breaking point.

Struggling with Solar Collection for the Blackwater System

Throughout the construction of Desert Rain, we have had to seek out unique materials, often struggling to find products that met the LBC requirements. We have had to trust technologies that our entire building community was unfamiliar with, and often we have gone down one path, only to realize that we needed to backtrack and try again.

The solar collection panels for our blackwater system are a prime example of revisions done on the fly. As construction of Desert Lookout was progressing, the team realized that there were unforeseen issues with the panels that will collect solar heat to help the blackwater compost and evaporate. When the team realized the originally planned placement of the panels would not allow for enough direct sunlight, we had to take a hiatus in construction. This pause in construction, though driven by the placement of the collector panels, then delayed the ducting and electrical work being done inside and some of the exterior finish work.

As the team gathered additional information, we realized that because Desert Lookout is situated directly north of the garage for Desert Rain, creating more shade in the area, and keeping the ambient air temperature considerably cooler than areas with full sun. In addition, we realized the overhang of the eve shaded the panels too much during the summer months, thus reducing the amount of heat they deliver to the evaporator system.  After recalculating solar angles and panel efficiency throughout the year, the team decided to add an additional west-facing panel and lower the panels somewhat to improve year-round efficiency.  Since the original overhanging eve would still cast shadows on the panels, we also decided that the eve will need to be trimmed back – only a few weeks after the siders finished installing the gorgeous reclaimed T&G soffit.  Sigh…a time-consuming and expensive oversight on our part.

Striving to Move Onward 

While these struggles certainly affect us, Barb and Tom and the rest of the Desert Rain Team are committed to moving forward. Challenges, after all, will make us all more suited to support future LBC projects of our own and of others.  We will continue to make progress –  the solar collector panels were installed late last week.

Solar Collector Panels at Desert Lookout

The solar collector panels on Desert Lookout will provide heat for the backwater composting/evaporating system.

If you or your team are considering undertaking a Living Building Challenge project, we whole-heartedly recommend you do so. And we are more than willing to share our experiences with you. What challenges are you most concerned with? Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

apple trees

August 2014 – Progress in Pictures

As the end of August approaches, the  sun is just slightly lower in the sky these days and the dog days of summer are perhaps behind us. It’s a perfect time to look back at the month’s progress in pictures, knowing the days are still plenty long and there is quite a bit of work to do for Desert Lookout.

apple trees

The apples trees along the northern edge of the property are filled with apples.

We had the team from Winter Creek Restoration on site optimizing the irrigation system, placing boulders, and planting native vegetation.

The Winter Creek Restoration Team

The Winter Creek Restoration Team: Dayne Galish, Andy Dwyer (OSU Intern), Calina Merrow (OSU Intern), Conor Bidelspach, Kimber Warnock, and Rick Martinson (owner).

The Elite Plaster team is preparing for exterior stucco.

David Sr and David Jr Kaiser from Elite Plaster

David Kaiser Sr. was more than happy to work along side one his sons, and co-owner of Elite Plaster, David Jr.

A young service berry tree reaches seems to reach from the completed garage to the newest structure in-process.

The gap between DL and DR

Old and new meet: The completed garage along side Desert Lookout in process.

And… we’re ready to install the solar collector panels that will help the backwater compost and evaporate.

Solar Collector Panel

Lyndon Moore, owner of Moore Climate Control, and Jeremy Bennet show off one of the new solar collector panels

July 2014 – Progress in Pictures

Summers are always busy, and the crews of tradespeople working on Desert Lookout are making the most of longer and warmer days.  We started this July with a minimally framed structure, and have watched the roof go up, the windows go in, and now the exterior siding is being installed. Inside, rough electrical is being installed.  It’s hard to believe how much construction progress has been made.

Cory Tennison from TAC wrapping up the framing process.

Cory Tennison from TAC – in the middle of the framing process.

 

Blue skies in Bend.

Blue skies in Bend.

Quality Truss delivered our trusses.

Quality Truss delivered our trusses.

Part of the TAC team - Kenton Lueck and Marvin Raby stalled the Desert Lookout Roof.

Part of the TAC team – Kenton Lueck and Marvin Raby stalled the Desert Lookout Roof.

Desert Lookout - Ready for windows.

Desert Lookout – Ready for windows.

Tom - taking a break to check out the siding prep and new windows.

Tom – taking a break to check out the siding prep and new windows.

Salvaged wood waiting to be installed as soffits.

Salvaged wood waiting to be installed as soffits. Read more about it here.

Don Kruse and Bill Mastous from TAC are installing the siding.

Don Kruse and Bill Mastous from TAC are installing the siding.

Mike, from All Phase Energy is installing the rough electrical.

Mike, from All Phase Energy is installing the rough electrical.

Bill Kaiser from Elite Plastering is on deck. We'll be ready to start the exterior siding soon.

Bill Kaiser from Elite Plastering is on deck. We’ll be ready to start the exterior siding soon.

 

 

 

 

 

On the Fresh Edge of Green Building

Recently, we welcomed Michael McLandress to the Desert Rain Team. Adding Michael adds a friend, a neighbor, and someone incredibly dedicated to sustainability and green building.

Recently, we welcomed Michael McLandress to the Desert Rain Team. Adding Michael adds a friend, a neighbor, and someone incredibly dedicated to sustainability and green building.

With more than 30 years of experience building high-end commercial and residential buildings, Michael established his company, Brightwater Collaborative, in Bend in alignment with his passion for green building. Michael’s mission is to focus on sustainability in the built environment and when Timberline Construction brought him on as the Project Manager for Desert Lookout, we were thrilled.

On the Fresh Edge of Green Building

Michael came to Bend from the Bay Area, and started off on the green (or right) foot. His first job in Bend was as the Project Manager for the construction of Miller Elementary. This school was an important ‘first’ for Bend LaPine Schools as well as for our community. It was the first school on the east side of the Cascades, and the third in the State of Oregon, to be LEED for Schools Gold Certified. The $40 million project set the trajectory for Michael to work on more cutting edge, green projects in Central Oregon.

As Brightwater Collective, Michael is also currently working with OSU Cascades. The new 4-year, college campus will bring innumerable changes to our community and Michael is involved in planning for and development of the college’s multi-modal transportation plan. By working with Commute Options, local businesses, and citizens, Michael is looking to implement a plan from which the whole community can benefit.

As an engaged citizen, Michael, along with Tom, is on the Board of Directors for The Environmental Center.  He works with the rest of the board and staff on the non-profit’s mission to “embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon.” He’s also helped the non-profit meet some of it’s own operational needs by coordinating the donation of paint and painting services to keep the 25 year old center in good, structural condition.

Leading the Way for Desert Lookout

Michael McLandress and Lyndon Moore (Moore Climate Control)

Michael McLandress and Lyndon Moore (Moore Climate Control)

Michael professes that he loves being part of the Desert Rain Team, “I’m honored to be part of this cutting edge green building project. It’s a model project for Green building and sustainability.”

Desert Lookout makes the Living Building Challenge feasible for Desert Rain. This newest structure houses the composting system for our site’s blackwater – playing a crucial role on helping our home meet all the requirements of the LBC water petal. This structure, by way of obtaining a city permit to treat blackwater onsite, also allows the City of Bend to see that onsite water treatment will work on an individual, residential level.