Specific construction concerns & LBC:
Constructed Wetland Bioreactor
In the permitting process, there are various departments that review and approve (or deny) certain
aspects of a project. Some projects require many departments to weigh in. For instance a large
retail project may need to provide a traffic study for the Engineering Department. Other agencies
review zoning, fire protection access, storm water flows, and other aspects that involve how the
specific project fits into the larger local systems. All are charged with protecting the public health,
safety and welfare.
For the Constructed Wetland Bioreactor (CWB) at Desert Rain, there has been confusion over who
has jurisdiction. For many months, the City of Bend Building Department has been insisting that
they have the authority to review the CWB plans. At our initial permit application, they rejected the
CWB. Morgan and his team have gathered multiple sources that all designate the Public Works
Department as the proper jurisdiction for CWB review. In fact, the regional building codes
ombudsman has reminded the team that the building department’s authority ends two feet beyond
the building wall. The CWB is located outside that realm and falls into the jurisdiction of Public
Morgan had hoped to reach agreement with the Bend Building Official Robert Mathais that the
CWB is a Public Works concern. Unfortunately, Morgan and team hit a barrier in working with
Mathais. He seems reluctant to accept that the Public Works Department has jurisdiction and that
Public Works has already given preliminary approval to the idea of a Constructed Wetland
Bioreactor at Desert Rain.
Their final conversation ended with Mathais suggesting that Morgan provide a short summary,
outlining exactly what is being requested from Public Works. Mathais then offered to take that
summary, add his plumbing code concerns, and bring it all to a discussion with Public Works.
Morgan decided that that route may not be the best option for securing final approval for the CWB.
At first it seemed we had reached the point where a formal pretreatment application and approval
would be necessary. The team has been quite reluctant to pursue this path because it is highly
likely that no precedent exists here. And, without precedent, the process can be expensive and
time consuming without any certainty of attaining final approval.
In lieu of Mathais’ acknowledging the Public Works authority, Morgan has decided to move toward
attaining a more formal statement from Public Works regarding their domain over pretreatment
programs. He is working with several local DEQ officials to get their input and support. The DEQ
jurisdiction overlaps the City of Bend Public Works domain and, as colleagues, they can offer
The current path is for Morgan to connect with the local DEQ officials, giving them any necessary
information on the Desert Rain CWB. Then he can work with the Bend Public Works Department
to determine a route for review and approval. Our focus is on the CWB as a pretreatment system,
not as a sewage disposal system.
We have also discussed using political pressure to help gain approval. There are several viable
options around this avenue and include engaging City Council members in the discussion. We
would prefer to follow the usual approval pathways but it is helpful to know options are available.
Zachary Suchara with Luma Lighting Design has been brought onto the project. He’s working with
Al on the lighting design. Zach has been working on another LBC project, the Bullitt Foundation in
Seattle. His experience will be valuable as we move quickly toward final lighting design and
selections. Of particular importance is developing a lighting scheme that combines super energy
efficiency with low-voltage lighting controls.
At the construction site, the building forms are taking shape. The trusses for the Main House were
delivered last week bringing many aspects of the design into focus. In spite of the heavy,
continued snowfall during the week, the roof trusses are now in place. (I’ve been told the truss
delivery truck had to chain up to navigate the alley!)
This weekend brought sunshine and a visit to the site was rewarded with a lovely play of light and
shadow in the spaces growing from the house foundation. The framed base for the Moro wall sets
an inviting curve through the structure. Although the site has patches of snow and serious areas of
mud and of course piles of lumber supplies waiting to be installed, one can begin to imagine the
courtyard as defined by the House and the ADU. The framed views are also gaining definition,
both from within the building and from the outdoor spaces.
The excavation for the cistern offers a curious counterpoint. Its deep, basalt-walled pit will
eventually contain the concrete cistern and be capped by the Main House garage. What is now a
void will be a solid building, screening the courtyard spaces from the alley.
Specific construction concerns & LBC: