The structures at Desert Rain can hardly be described as boxes. I have used the term loosely to imply two things: One – the scope of the project is seeing a surge in outdoor work, hardscaping, landscaping; two- the work taking place outside is beyond the realm of traditional yardwork.
Construction of the ‘Miro’ wall is well underway. The curved, masonry wall is a continuation of the interior wall. It gracefully curves between the main house and the accessory dwelling unit creating a courtyard of privacy and a backdrop for the memorial tree planting for the ponderosa pine that was removed from the site.
Chris Hart Henderson and Ani Cahill with Heartsprings Design have been on board since the beginning of the project. Ani has been working on planting modifications and underground irrigation plans. The original landscape design utilized plants that could survive in extremely low water conditions. With the approval of the gray water system and 5,000 gallon storage tank for irrigation, the diversity of plants has grown. Though she will still use native, dryland, Mediterranean type plant material, Ani said she is now able to ‘juice up the palette of plants, particularly in the inner courtyard, making it visually more exciting. She will also be increasing the edible plant percentage to help meet the Living Building Challenge requirement of 35%. The graywater will be processed through a bio-reactive, constructed wetland. Whole Water Systems engineered the structure that will contain plant material, rushes, and sedges that will treat the graywater as it percolates through the system – about a seven day process. The Desert Rain wetland is the first graywater system in the state to be permitted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Permits with the City of Bend are pending.
There is a collaborative effort taking place among landscape designers, landscape installers, and plant experts. Rick Martinson with Winter Creek Restoration and Nurseryhas joined the Desert Rain team. Rick has an ecology based approach to landscaping. He will be focusing on the steep, rocky west slope and the plantings in the constructed wetland area. Rick said the large rock outcrop on the west side has a diversity of microclimates as the rocks create pockets of intense heat, poor soil base, and shade.
Rick has worked with other green projects including LEED and Earth Advantage. He said Desert Rain landscaping will be a ‘demonstration of a system that functions with plant communities specific to the site to make the landscape sustainable. In his view, the demonstration aspect and the holistic approach of the Living Building Challenge is what makes the project important.
Thinking outside the box has been a necessary element in creating this Living Building Challenge project. The landscaping and plant selections are no exception. The Desert Rain team of landscapers, with the designers and builders have been ‘cross-pollinating’ ideas to intermingle the structures with the outdoor spaces. The landscape work will soon begin to blend function with aesthetics, to create a flow of inside and outside space. It begins by sowing the seed, propagating and planting, cultivating green growth and good living by thinking outside the box.