Extreme Green—Down to Every Last Nail


Cistern in progress at Desert Rain. Bend, Oregon. March 20, 2012

It’s the first day of spring, but you wouldn’t know it here in Bend. We continue to get precipitation. Today it came in the form of wet snow this morning and turned to light rain later in the day. I went out to the Desert Rain site close to 2:00 this afternoon. All was quiet; the wet weather certainly makes it more challenging to work.

The cistern is slowly taking shape, the form walls growing to create a huge mold for the concrete to come. 


The outside of the forms for the cistern’s concrete walls.

Looking at the cistern—and at the whole site—I’m still awed by the materials used and how everything is tracked. When I say everything, I mean EVERYthing. The nails, the concrete, the wood, the rebar used in the concrete, the insulation, the adhesives, the pipes, the drains, the fixtures, the faucets, the pavers, the lights, the roofing, the gutters—there is nothing being used in Desert Rain that is not tracked and, of course, approved as Living Building Challenge (LBC) compliant.

A few cells from M.L.’s expansive spreadsheet.

M.L. Vidas, the LBC consultant for Desert Rain, maintains a spreadsheet that details exactly what’s being used and where it came from (materials must be sourced from within a certain radius of the project). Of course, everything used must comply with LBC’s strict standards, which strive to “…induce a successful materials economy that is non-toxic, transparent, and socially equitable” (from LBC 2.0). M.L. updates the spreadsheet regularly. Currently, there are 330 items listed on the spreadsheet, and M.L. is tracking up to 42 details about each item (sourcing radius, manufacturer, supplier, primary contents, raw materials content location, and on and on). 330 items, up to 42 details about each; that’s more than 13,000 bits of information.

Insulation foam (tracked and approved in the materials spreadsheet) setting in the gap left between pieces of FSC-certified wood (tracked and approved in the spreadsheet).

“My actual work ends up being a lot of research and a lot of organizing information,” said M. L. earlier this month. “Every product, every material going into this project is on this spreadsheet. Everything. I’ve tracked what it is, where it’s being used in the project, who’s the manufacturer, what raw materials are in it, and where they come from. And we’re tracking for LEED, too. I didn’t think my area of expertise would be to track and manage information, but it is now!”

Concrete masonry unit (CMU) blocks manufactured in Oregon—tracked and approved in the materials spreadsheet.


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