In April, Desert Rain received an e-mail from Ben’s Cabinets in Sisters, Oregon. With Ben’s permission we are including it in this post as he presents a question that is in the minds of many who are following the Desert Rain story. “I’ve been in the construction industry since 1977. I’m well aware of the green movement we’ve all witnessed with great interest in our trade. As I’ve watched you go through this process and the approval of every aspect of the construction and site development, I can’t help but come away with the impression that this type of building would be totally unaffordable to the common family. I would hope that you would address the affordability aspect of this project to your audience as cost is of critical concern to most people when it comes to building a home.”
Desert Rain owners, Tom Elliott and Barb Scott, reply: “Your point is very important to us as well. We hope to take what we have learned at huge expense and translate that into an ‘affordable’ living building challenge house elsewhere. Desert Rain is a demonstration project and, as such, is clearly unaffordable by most. We have been very fortunate to be in a position to make that investment toward the future. I do think many of the practices and technologies will become more affordable as demand increases. We also see many ways we can adapt the technologies in Desert Rain to serve many homes at the same time, thus bringing the cost down for all. Once we get through the current project we are excited about exploring this possibility further and will definitely be addressing this issue on our website.”
As Desert Rain moves closer to completion, Tom and Barb have been revisiting the idea that they have named, LBC Light. Currently the idea is in the very early stages of the process that they envision leading to an affordable Living Building Challenge, residential project. The seed of the concept has been in the back of their minds since they began work on Desert Rain. At a team brainstorming session Barb said, ‘– We don’t want to build Desert Rain and be done. We believe in the LBC and feel it is our responsibility to propagate building with these guidelines. The educational element continues as new people learn about the project and the LBC. It has to be affordable.’ Tom adds to that comment, ‘We would build an affordable LBC project or see it built – help make it happen’.
Tom and Barb own a lot located behind the Desert Rain site. That site is one possibility for a two or three household project. Ideally, they would like to have the project pre-sold and an owner that is involved with the process. The concept of ‘scale jumping’, creating a project with shared infrastructure in a small development, may make more sense economically. James Fagan, with Timberline, builder for Desert Rain says, ‘Building (LBC) in an affordable realm can be done; super- simple design, modular construction, accepting more standard materials, using more reclaimed materials, getting innovative with rainwater storage’ – all necessary to an affordable, LBC home.
Meeting the rigorous LBC guidelines – net zero water, net zero energy, with approved, non-Redlist materials, and meeting the imperatives of the Seven Petals is a challenge. Building to those guidelines and making it affordable raises the bar of the challenge. Desert Rain has been setting precedence and opening doors in Central Oregon and beyond. LBC has some new support tools in place that will save research time and help make building more affordable. Other LBC projects are underway or have been completed creating a template for affordable, green home construction.
Tom and Barb and the team at Desert Rain believe it is possible to build an affordable, Living Building Challenge home. There are many questions to answer. Perhaps, YOU have an answer. We welcome your thoughts and ideas for building an affordable LBC home. Stay tuned to the Desert Rain website for upcoming information on affordable LBC projects, materials, systems, designs, and incoming ideas from our followers. The quest for LBC Light begins!