Awards for Wood – Desert Rain a Winner

Hidden from view, within the walls of Desert Rain is an innovative, structural element composed of Forest Stewardship Council certified wood.  The staggered, double wall, framed construction of the building envelope is extraordinary.  It was designed and developed to meet the stringent energy standards of the Living Building Challenge .  Though the FSC wood is not visible in the building envelope – FSC wood and reclaimed or salvaged wood is abundantly evident throughout the project. Inside and out – Desert Rain celebrates wood as an integral part of the project.

The FSC certified cedar siding glowing in sunlight.

The FSC certified cedar siding glowing in sunlight.

FSC certified wood was used in all the cabinetry.

FSC certified wood was used in all the cabinetry.

This September, Desert Rain entered the 9th Annual Design and Build with FSC Awards competition.  ‘Each year at the US Green Building Council’s Greenbuild, the Forest Stewardship Council US recognizes excellence and innovation in the use of FSC certified building materials in commercial and residential construction.  Award winning projects demonstrate that wood from responsibly managed forests can meet all design and construction needs. Selection criteria include the amount of FSC-certified wood used, innovation, and efforts to advance market transformation. The awards honor designers and builders who are committed to using FSC-certified wood and creating a marketplace that promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests.’

Doors, floors, ceilings, and trim use reclaimed and salvaged wood.

Doors, floors, ceilings, and trim use reclaimed and salvaged wood.

Eligible projects, including residential, must use at least 50% FSC certified wood (by cost) of any new wood used. Desert Rain uses 100% FSC certified wood in the structural framing, the cabinetry, exterior cedar siding, and the Loewen window frames. Other woods used at Desert Rain are reclaimed or salvaged. The exterior soffits, interior ceilings, and trim showcase the lumber that was reclaimed from the deconstruction of the two original homes on the site and a nearby, potato barn. That lumber was re-milled and stored to be used as the construction progressed. The myrtlewood flooring is sourced through Slice Recovery in Coquille, Oregon.  Myrtlewood from Slice Recovery is harvested as salvage, a by-product of the timber industry, cleaning up after the logging operations in fir and pine stands.

Forest Stewardship Council is the gold standard of forest management. Find out why!   CLICK HERE


A significant component of the FSC certified wood use at Desert Rain  is visually evident in the cabinetry. As a Living Building Challenge project, Desert Rain was obligated to use a FSC certified shop and cabinet maker. Owners, Barb Scott and Tom Elliott wanted someone local who understood the design, aesthetics, goals, and challenge of the project.

Gabriel Dansky with Dansky Handcrafted, Tom and Barb look at the cabinets.

Gabriel Dansky with Dansky Handcrafted, Tom and Barb look at cabinet details. Dansky Handcrafted is a FSC certified cabinet shop.

Gabriel Dansky, with Dansky Handcrafted  joined the team. Dansky has been building custom, sustainably minded cabinetry for decades.  He  had used  FSC certified wood in other projects.  Desert Rain was the catalyst for Dansky to take the next step – becoming a certified FSC cabinet shop. Though the paperwork, auditing, time, and expense of the process could be daunting, Dansky forged ahead recognizing that market demands will drive FSC certification. He sees that people who request FSC wood are generally looking for a quality product that goes beyond price.

Cabinets throughout the structure are made from FSC- certified wood.

Cabinets throughout the structure are made from FSC- certified wood. The grain in the veneer is meticulously matched creating visual flow and artistry.

Dansky Handcrafted has now renewed their FSC certification to complete the work on Desert Rain. Dansky has embraced the Desert Rain project where he said, ‘everyone can take pride in the quality of their work’.   Dansky worked with project designer, Al Tozer with Tozer Design to develop a design that showcases the beauty of the wood. The cabinets are an art form; the veneers are grain matched, flowing, and peaceful as they blend and accent the other elements and materials within Desert Rain.

From the structural framing to the finely, finished cabinetry Desert Rain celebrates wood. Wood is an essential and significant  ingredient in the function and beauty of Desert Rain. On October 23 notice arrived that Desert Rain was the residential winner for the 2013 Design and Build with FSC Awards. Barb and Tom will soon attend the ceremony to accept the award for Desert Rain and the team. It is time to celebrate –  the FSC,  good wood, and Desert Rain!  Congratulations Team Desert Rain!

post detail blog

Wood is an integral and beautiful element of Desert Rain – a cause for celebration!

No Cold Feet at Desert Rain

Twelve degrees F. here at my home outside of Bend today. I am currently renting an old farmhouse with inadequate insulation, low quality double paned windows, arctic air through the electrical outlets, and  ice-cold floors that quickly freeze the feet.  I rarely use the high-cost, high- energy consumption, electric wall heaters.  That leaves me with a pellet stove – warm enough if I’m in the same room, additional layers required in the rest of the house.  While I sit writing in my wool  sweater and booties, I’m thinking of Desert Rain – all the elements of energy efficient home design and building technology that make a home comfortable, no matter the outdoor air temperature.

The ADU received the final application of spray foam insulation a few days ago.

Attention to detail with spray foam insulation ensures an airtight seal.












At the project site yesterday, the Energy Conservation Insulation crew was back with more spray foam insulation.  The process started in July with spraying the ceiling area and around duct work and vent stacks. The initial coat of spray foam insulation in the walls was installed to about half the final thickness. Without the obstructions of wires and pipes, the spray foam can more easily penetrate the wall cavities, creating a better seal.  The electrical and plumbing system work has been in progress throughout the fall.  Mike Wagnon with All Phase Electric Service and Beau Parazoo with Parazoo Plumbing confirmed that both the electrical and plumbing systems passed inspection this past week.  With those approvals in place ECI is working on the final layer of spray foam insulation. Desert Rain will have R-values more than twice the code requirement. ECI also uses an infrared camera to find potential ‘air leaks’ and weak spots in the insulation.  The attention to detail is apparent as spray foam is visible at every location where there is a possible connection to outside air.  The insulation, combined with the whole house caulking that stops air infiltration, contributes to the temperate comfort.

So many wires! The electrical system passed inspection this last week.


Plumbing system in place and passed inspection.












While I covet the idea of good insulation and no cold air infiltration, I am absolutely envious of the infloor hydronic heating system.  The 4″ thick concrete slab is the thermal mass for both the infloor heating and any passive solar gain that permeates the structure.  That concrete retains and radiates the warmth.  The energy efficient heat pump has been working during my last few visits keeping the space warm even without an airtight front door and with construction underway. I can also appreciate the choice of the Loewen windows.  Loewen uses thicker glass than most other window manufacturers. The triple glazed windows consist of two full half-inch air spaces, argon gas, Low E2 technology, a special cladding design to keep exterior metal away from the interior of the window, and edge sealing.  The craftsmanship of the window frame is cabinet quality for a tight seal. The window installation process with pre-flashing details that prevent water and air infiltration is essential.  The results – gradual and uniform transition from outside to inside temperature and energy efficiency.

Outside in the winter cold, work continues on the garage soffits with reclaimed lumber.


Though inside Desert Rain is comfortable, work also continues outside in the bitter, winter weather.  The framers have installed windows and are continuing work on the garage.  They are using more of the reclaimed lumber for the soffits – the same material that is on the main house.  As each element of design is added the garage becomes visually connected to the other structures.  The project site is revealing the ‘compound’ idea that Barb and Tom had envisioned.  It will be a compound of energy efficient dwellings, offering ideal comfort to the people inside – no cold feet here.






Progress in Pictures – November 2012

Progress continues to bring Desert Rain closer to completion. The fall months have seen a flurry of activity inside and out as work moves forward with electrical, plumbing, gutters, site changes, another cistern, floor polishing, prep work for upcoming plastering, and the construction of the garage.

In early September the site was graded, back-filling around the foundation walls, leveling holes and bumps.


The ‘mail trail’ was created for a walking path coming up from Shasta Place. Anna Vacca and her crew had the trail ready for the Green Drinks event on September 27.

The concrete floor was ‘diamond polished’ in a sequence of coarse to fine grits, removing pits and creating a beautiful, reflective surface.

Hydronic, infloor radiant heating system is under the cement slab floor and throughout the house.

The solar thermal system will provide all the hot water for domestic use and for the hydronic infloor heating system.

Plumbing pipes, vent stacks, and installation of plumbing fixtures continues into November.

LED lighting fixtures installed throughout the home.

Electrical installation continues.

Keith Krewson and crew pouring the 5,000 gallon graywater cistern.

Graywater cistern complete with lid. It is adjacent to the 35,000 gallon ‘domestic’ water cistern. The cistern is also the foundation for the garage. Framing started mid-November.

Cedar siding received a sealing coat to protect the wood and maintain color consistency.

Stainless steel interior gutters were soddered in place. The stainless gutter is the interior portion of a two part gutter system. The outside gutter is color, coated steel.

Jeff and Spencer with River Roofing installing the gutters.

Desert Rain in the news. Rachael Rees with the Bend Bulletin meets with Tom and Barb to gather information for her article featuring graywater and wastewater systems.

Scott and Jason framing the garage above the cistern.

The garage dramatically changes the profile of the site. Jason and Scott worked through some fierce winds to install the sheathing on the exterior walls and roof.

Desert Rain on November 21, 2012. The ADU wrapped and ready for plastering, the new garage profile peaking up to the right of the house, blue, cold, autumn sky.

Panoramic Picture Blog

The home’s placement on the lot was carefully planned by by Tozer Design Studio. That placement, along with the deep south- and west-facing overhangs visible in this picture, are integral to Desert Rain’s passive solar design. April 24, 2012.

The forms are now gone from most of the cistern’s walls. The main holding tank can be seen on the left of the structure. The cistern will be covered by a concrete slab, over which the garage will be built. The collection of precipitation on site, and its storage and filtering in the cistern, will allow Desert Rain to be water independent. April 24, 2012.

Scott and Jason working to install large wooden beams inside Desert Rain. Framing will soon be done, after which time the electrical and plumbing can begin. All of the wood seen in this photo is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. April 24, 2012.

Looking up into the trusses that run the full east-west length of the home. The trusses will eventually be covered by reclaimed wood for the ceiling. April 24, 2012.


Of Shopping Lists and Food

Inside the house today I found a great shopping list:

The framers' lumber shopping list.

Framers Jason and Scott tallied their lumber needs on the work desk inside of Desert Rain. Situated perfectly above the list was a saw. I don’t think they realize it, but they often leave their plans and tools arranged in the most artful manner. Stumbling across the next artistic find is always something I look forward to when out on the site.

I stumbled upon this list after walking onto the lot to find a Parr Lumber forklift delivering items from the NEED column. Contractors planning for what they need is an important part of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) process. Not just what you need, but when you need it. As Nate Morgan, the project’s sales rep at Parr Lumber explains, “The idea of the [Desert Rain] project is to be as sustainable as possible, so we’ve had conversations about, hey, we realize you need that, but would you be willing to wait until you need the rest of it or more of it? This job is really about sustainability and the footprint. Because every time you [deliver] it takes resources, such as fuel, and causes emissions. So we’re all really working to overcome historic mindsets of how construction has been done.”

The cistern's wall forms are complete and ready for Tuesday's concrete pour.

The next big delivery of materials comes tomorrow (Tuesday, April 10), when roughly 160,000 pounds of concrete will be poured into the forms for the cistern’s walls. They’ll pump in approximately three feet of concrete at a time, then pause to use a special tool to vibrate out all of the air, and continue with the next three feet, repeating the process until the get to the top (which is about 12 feet high). Once the concrete sets the forms will be removed and we’ll all get a look at how the cistern is taking shape.

Leaf buds on one of the apple trees at Desert Rain.

Around the lot, signs of spring continue to bloom. The apple trees have small leaves coming forth, as well as blossoms. To receive LBC certification, Desert Rain must “integrate opportunities for agriculture appropriate to the scale and density of the project…” (Source: Living Building Challenge 2.0). This means there must be edible food grown on site; certainly no easy task in Central Oregon’s high desert region. But landscape designer Chris Hart Henderson is working with many edibles beyond the site’s existing apple trees. “We decided to go with plants that provided more of an indigenous culture diet and that are readily available. We have service berry, elderberry, currants, wild strawberries, rose hips, Oregon grape, choke cherries,” she says.

One of the two apple trees on the site.








The trusses are coming, the trusses are coming!

The trusses are here!

We woke up to four or five inches of snow and a two-hour school delay today. My first thought was I wonder if they’re going to get the trusses in this morning. After we shoveled our driveway and I warmed up with a hot cup of coffee, I pulled on my snow boots and a warm jacket, grabbed the camera, and headed out to the Desert Rain site at 9:00 a.m.

Trusses delivered on snowy morning

Desert Rain trusses make their way up the alley behind the home—but first, the truck driver chains up the wheels after getting stuck.

It was clear but cold, and it was quickly apparent that an overnight snow storm wasn’t going to halt progress on the house. I walked up the narrow and none-too-straight (and unpaved) alley to find the truck driver—with a load of trusses behind his truck—chaining up. He was stuck mid-alley, though the crane had already pulled in and was set up and ready. Once he chained up he was able to move forward and get the trusses back to the crane without a problem. As I watched the huge truck rumble by, framer Jason Bozovich laughed. Having just averted what could have been a day-changing setback he jokingly asked “What could possibly go wrong?” Happily, nothing did.

I know this is what builders deal with all the time?cranes and backhoes and big rigs and platforms and power tools that go “phwoosh-ch-ch” when you use them. But if you’re like me, and you don’t normally work around this stuff, then it’s pretty fun to watch. The framers traversed the tops of the walls and grabbed the trusses as they were lowered from above. With huge beams flying through the air and men walking 15 feet above the ground like it was nothing, I couldn’t help but to think of a high wire act.

The first truss is lowered.

The first truss was placed around 9:30, and the last ones were placed before lunch. It was a gorgeous day, especially with all of the fresh snow from the night before. At one point a Bald Eagle swooped down over the roof and headed on up river. What a sight. Scott Creson pointed it out and everyone took a minute to try to follow its path, but it was gone as quickly as it came. And, of course, I had just shoved my camera back into my pocket when the eagle made his brief appearance.

Everyone took a momentary pause at the eagle sighting, but went right back to work. The crane kept delivering the trusses, one by one, and they were quickly but carefully fastened into place. As with all new wood being used in Desert Rain, the trusses are made of FSC-certified lumber. The wood was purchased from Parr Lumber, and the trusses were fabricated in Redmond—18 miles north of Bend—by Quality Truss.

Placing the last few trusses on Desert Rain.

With the trusses now in place you can clearly see the angles of the roof. This design allows for the home to capture the maximum amount of precipitation. Rain and snow will drain from the roof and collect in specially designed gutters. That water will then flow through downspouts and into pipes that direct it to the home’s 35,000 gallon cistern, which will be located under the garage. From there the water is filtered at several points and pumped back to the home as potable.

Most of the trusses in place.

A view from the inside—it’s like being in the belly of a whale!

Walking on high beams, snow on the ground, cold temperatures biting and hands and noses—this was probably one of the harder days on the site for this crew. But besides that initial hick-up in the alley it all went off without a hitch. And we spotted that Bald Eagle to boot. Soon the boards will be placed on the trusses, the siding will go up, and it will continue to look more and more like a livable home. But for now, the view from the inside is still pretty remarkable.

Here are a few more photos from the day: