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!