Since December, Desert Rain has been home to Tom and Barb. They are settling in, becoming familiar with the uses and mechanics of the many systems that are part of the site and structures. Last week the installation of the control panels was underway. When the work is completed the status of those systems will be visible data that may be used to monitor and optimize efficiency.
To receive Living Building Challenge certification, Desert Rain must meet a series of rigorous performance requirements. For a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy the data will be archived to determine the effectiveness of the working systems installed at Desert Rain. The permit is still pending for Desert Lookout, a structure that will have a dwelling space and house the proposed composter/evaporator system for blackwater and dishwasher waste. The clock will not begin until all systems are in place and functioning.
Powers of Automation a local, family oriented, Bend company designed and built the control panel equipment. President and founder, Steve Powers said this is the first residential project they have been involved with. They typically provide control and validation solutions to municipalities and large scale industrial companies. He had not heard of the Living Building Challenge when he was referred to the Desert Rain Project through a parts supplier. He looks at this project as a potential way to diversify his business. Desert Rain will be sharing information about the monitoring systems and results with the Living Building Challenge community.
Powers said he used the same approach with the Desert Rain as he uses for larger system integration projects. He interviewed Tom and Morgan Brown, of Whole Water Systems to determine the need and importance of the data to be gathered. Powers works with local manufacturers as much as possible to find components for the control systems. The Powers of Automation team use these components as building blocks to assemble custom control panels specific to the project requirements. Tom said, ‘the system provided by Powers of Automation is much more sophisticated than originally planned and will provide more information than the requirements of the LBC.’
The control system currently being installed will provide the following functions:
- Fresh water distribution monitoring and pressure control
- Reclaimed water monitoring and level control
- Power usage and production monitoring
- Composting system monitoring
- Data acquisition
- Alarm notification
The 35,000 gallon fresh water cistern and distribution system will be monitored for level and flow. Two pumps will be utilized alternately and monitored by a pressure sensor that will adjust speed to maintain desired pressure. Once the LBC monitoring phase begins, water in the cistern may only be replenished by collection through rainwater harvesting. The LBC allows the fresh water cistern to be charged initially by filling with city water.
There are 7 pumps in use throughout the systems at Desert Rain. Each pump will be monitored and connected to an alarm/warning system in case of failure. The grey water, bioreactive wetland, reclaimed water tank, and irrigation system will be monitored by a flow sensor to determine efficiency of water flow and track evaporation. Flow meters and level controls will assure there are no water overflows by alerting Tom to water levels and allowing to re-adjust set points.
For LBC certification Desert Rain must be net zero energy. The solar photovoltaic system is monitored with web based software. The power production is monitored and the data archived. Power consumption will be monitored at individual and grouped sources to determine what is using energy and why. The temperatures and/or energy use of the hot water, air to water heat pump, hydronic radiant floor heating system, and electrical circuits will all be visible with the control panels.
When completed, the composting, evaporator, and vaccum system will be monitored for levels and alarms before any overflow could occur. The evaporator tank and reclaimed water tanks each have an overflow connected to sanitary sewer. Any over flow could invalidate the LBC water petal certification.
In addition to systems monitoring, Desert Rain will be outfitted with a weather monitoring station that will track barometric pressure, dew point, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, wind speed, and wind direction.
Tom and Barb are eager to have the control panels in place so they will have time to watch the systems, determine what is working, and maximize performance before the official monitoring period begins. Tom and a friend will be developing a dashboard to graph the information so it may be more easily viewed and eventually shared. All the research, design, development, and installation of systems will be under scrutiny as the data tells the story. Desert Rain will be playing the role; as a home, and as a demonstration of sustainability in the built environment.