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Desert Rain – Breaking Barriers

More visitors take a tour with Tom to learn about Desert Rain and sustainable building elements they may incorporate into their own projects.

From the beginning of the design and building process, Tom and Barb envisioned the Desert Rain project as a demonstration site with an educational element.  Along with their dream of building and living in their own extreme, green home, they have an objective of setting an example of what is possible in sustainable building. They are making an effort to expand ideas and push barriers with regulatory agencies, contractors, product manufacturers, and building materials.  In Tom’s words, ‘we’re not saying everybody should go build a home like this, but we think there are elements of this home that could and should be incorporated into just about any structure that is being built.’   There have been a number of people who have toured the site and been inspired by one piece or another of the project. They  may not be interested in building a Living Building Challenge home but they may be looking for methods or materials that they can utilize in a home being built or remodeled. For example a tighter building envelope saves enormous amounts of energy, no matter the source of the heat.  Insulation, windows, framing methods, passive solar design, and alternative heating systems may be pieces of the project that many people would implement when building a green home.

The 35,000 gallon cistern – a large piece of the Water Petal puzzle.

The water systems at Desert Rain have created the largest hurdles and are perhaps the least applicable for others to embrace.  Not many homes will have the extensive rainwater harvesting system and 35,000 gallon cistern collection tank that Desert Rain is using. Nor will the average, green home have a graywater system that treats all household wastewater for reuse to the standards that Desert Rain is setting. The proposed solution pioneered by Tom, Barb, ACS, Whole Water Systems and Tozer Design Design, to use efficient, conventional toilets that process blackwater and solid waste through a solar evaporator and on site composting facility is remarkably, innovative.  These systems that are currently difficult to encompass for the average homeowner, may prove to be the most educational element of the design and building process of Desert Rain.

Inspired by Desert Rain
As a result of his work with Desert Rain, Morgan Brown, President of Whole Water Systems has proposed a Living Future Talk for the Living Building Challenge. LBC Water Petal Solutions – Technology & Permitting Challenges; Lessons Learned on the Bleeding Edge
“Navigating the bleeding edge of LBC Water Petal technology and regulatory approval can emphasize the “Challenge” in Living Buildings. This session will focus on lessons learned from Desert Rain, an LBC home located in historic downtown Bend, OR. The session will highlight the 3-year Odyssey seeking approvals for cutting-edge blackwater, graywater and rainwater harvest systems and the joys of stretching city building codes and new state guidelines to the breaking point. An overview of Water Petal solutions by early LBC projects followed by audience participation in Fantasy LBC Water Design will help others learn from pitfalls and avoid costs.

‘Some of the above came about out of necessity – given the current situation – in order to achieve the Living Building standard. Others are a result of inflexibility and shortsightedness in interpretation of regulations. ‘ said Morgan Brown, president of Whole Water Systems. He refers to his work on Desert Rain water system solutions as a ‘3- year Odyssey.’  Brown sees each of the water systems: rainwater harvest, graywater, and blackwater as cutting edge. He believes, ‘that if these systems are realized they have the potential to become extremely influential.  That they are state-of-the-art green systems pushing the limits, that they will be a vehicle for valuable study, that others will want to emulate them, and finally, that they will make it more affordable for those that follow.’

Tom sees Desert Rain as an opportunity to break through hurdles. He and Barb are hoping to leverage this Desert Rain b experience by building an affordable Living Building Challenge home that could then be replicated by others.  He also hopes that Desert Rain will create an awareness of possibilities that might benefit the community in a larger sense. The idea of ‘scale jumping’ – taking some of the elements of Desert Rain that may not be cost-effective or make sense for one home – and incorporate them at a larger scale. A constructed wetland for a single residence may not make sense but a constructed wetland that can serve a small residential development of 15   homes makes a lot of sense toward decentralized and sustainable water treatment.

Tom and Barb deserve much appreciation for their pioneering spirit, persistence, and vision for breaking barriers with the Desert Rain project.

Desert Rain is an educational tool demonstrating what is possible. Tom compares the process of building extreme green to Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile. “ It couldn’t be done. It was humanly impossible, bio-mechanically impossible, physics wouldn’t allow  it – just couldn’t be done until Roger Bannister did it. Then all of a sudden everybody was breaking the 4 minute mile.’


Breaking Barriers
In the sport of athletics, the four-minute mile is the act of completing a mile run (1,760 yards) in less than four minutes. It was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister in 3:59.4. The ‘four minute barrier’ has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional middle distance runners. In the last 50 years the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds.   resource – Wikipedia 

Desert Rain has been pushing the limits of new state rainwater harvesting guidelines and local and state codes for pre-treatment and reuse of graywater.  The blackwater, human waste system design is innovative and untold. Thanks to the persistence of Tom and Barb, and the Design and Build Teams, Desert Rain is jumping the hurdles, breaking the barriers, and setting some records in the built environment.  Like the breaking of the 4 minute mile, Desert Rain may be setting some new standards.

The Desert Rain Design/Build team – thanks to their persistence and innovative thinking, Desert Rain is pushing the barriers of the built environment.

Putting a Lid On It

The slab begins to take shape.

When I arrived on site at 7:20am on June 6, 2012, the concrete pump truck was backed up in the alley with the pump arm looming high above the cistern.  The concrete crew was finalizing the prep work. The 9” thick concrete slab is the lid of the 35,000 gallon cistern that will hold the collected rainwater for all the domestic water use at Desert Rain. The lid also serves as the parking floor for the garage.

 The concrete started to spew from the large pump hose. The crew efficiently began screeding the concrete. In this process, straightedges are used to remove excess concrete and bring the top surface of the concrete to the proper, previously marked grade line  This slab is level on the west end of the cistern where there are intake and mechanical hatches, then slopes gently on the east end. During the screeding process, the crew used a concrete vibrator. Right after placement, concrete contains up to 20% trapped air. The amount varies according to the mix of the ‘slump’, the placement method, size of the form and the amount of reinforcing steel used.  Concrete vibration consolidates the concrete by moving the concrete particles, then removing entrapped air.  Vibration helps settle the concrete and allow it to flow more readily into corners and around the rebar.  This eliminates voids or ‘honeycombs’ and brings more of the paste to the surface to assist in finishing. Since concrete flows better with vibration, the mix can contain less water, providing greater structural integrity in the finished product.  The screeding and vibrating crew were followed by Keith with a concrete float. The float forces the aggregate down and raises the cream (the gravel-free concrete) to the surface for finishing. The slab would be firm enough to walk on in a few hours when Keith would make cuts in the slab to relieve stress in the concrete and help control cracking.

The cistern now has a lid.

Keith and his crew (Jeff, Chris and David) demonstrated their experience as the 90,000 pounds of concrete arrived in three, consecutive trucks and was pumped into the slab. In a little over an hour, the forms were filled, screeded and floated.  The cistern, now has a lid and the garage, now has a floor. Nice work guys!

 

 

Rain by Any Other Name

This morning there is light rain falling, a sky full of gray, and the prominent fragrance of wet, washed sage.  With 90% chance of rain in the forecast, ‘Desert Rain’ is aptly living up to the name.

The cistern ready and waiting for the concrete to arrive.

 

The anticipated concrete pour for the lid of the 35,000 gallon cistern has been bumped due to the weather forecast.  One must appreciate the irony that rain, is holding up the progress of the building of the cistern that will be most dependent on rain when it is completed.  The cistern will store the rainwater and snowmelt that will be collected through a system of gutters, screens, and filtration systems.  The water will be collected for domestic use, including drinking water. Water stored in the cistern will not be used for irrigation.

Supporting structure inside the cistern

Last week, Keith and his concrete crew were continuing to build the form, secure re-bar, and frame the support structure for the cistern lid. The concrete lid serves a dual purpose as the slab floor of the parking garage that will be built on top of the cistern.  The estimated 90,000 pounds of concrete in the 9” thick slab will not contain a mixture of fly ash.  The concrete formula for the foundations of the other structures at Desert Rain contains 40% fly ash.  Fly ash is a bi-product of the coal industry that would normally be waste.  According to Jim Fagan, the General Contractor for Desert Rain, concrete that contains fly ash is ‘compressively stronger’  but slightly more brittle than regular concrete. This caused some concern about potential cracking in the heavily engineered cistern.

Support posts placed to hold the 90,000 pound concrete lid as it cures.

The pump truck is now scheduled to arrive on site this Wednesday at 7:30am.

Re-bar placed and tied

Wednesday’s forecast: 60 degrees, partly sunny, slight westerly winds – a good day to pour; concrete that is, not rain.

 

 

Why the Roof is the Foundation

It was a very blustery day in Bend today, with winds gusting up to 40 mph. But anyone who lives and works in Bend is used to the area’s quickly changing weather conditions–from 70 degrees and sunny one week to 50 degrees and raining the next. Rain or shine, snow or wind (or all of the above–completely possible on one day in Bend!), construction crews across town show up to work.

To the rear left you can see the roofing material now on the garage. To the right, the River Roofing of Bend crew is getting ready to place the steel roofing on the accessory dwelling unit.

The crew from River Roofing of Bend was on site at Desert Rain today, busy installing the metal panel roofing on the ADU (accessory dwelling unit). They completed the garage yesterday. To get video of the guys I climbed up onto the roof of the main home (you’ll find the video at the bottom of this post). You can really feel the wind from a rooftop! After an exhilarating hour up there, I climbed down to find a perfectly timed e-mail from Morgan Brown, president of Whole Water Systems in Seattle, Washington.

Whole Water Systems (http://wholewater.com)

Morgan is leading the way in engineering and managing Desert Rain’s water sustainability. Whole Water gathered more than two decades of rainfall data to develop a comprehensive water system–from rainwater collection (rooftops) to water storage (cistern) to water treatment (constructed wetland bioreactor)–that will allow Desert Rain to meet its water needs without having to rely on any water beyond that which is naturally available to it: rain and snow.

The roof design is an integral part of the home’s water use plan. In essence, it is the foundation of the water system. It is where precipitation first makes contact with the site, and, as a home being built to meet the Living Building Challenge, it is that water–and that water alone–that will provide for Desert Rain’s water needs. There must be enough roof surface area to effectively gather the needed precipitation. And determining roof area requires consideration of a variety of factors. Morgan explained the modeling used when calculating water needs for Desert Rain:

“Our engineer took into account the twenty year history of precipitation in Bend (average = 12 inches/year); lowest rain year (seven inches); amount of roof surface area available for collection; and range of anticipated user demand (occupants behavior, amount of water used). The resulting modeling suggested the need for a 30,000 gallon cistern to store enough water to get the occupants through the worst case dry spell without sacrificing on their intended average water use.”

Bear in mind that Barb and Tom’s intended average water use of 30 gallons a day per person pales in comparison to the national average, which is 98 gallons of water per person. Water conservation will come from a variety of areas, including Barb and Tom’s conscious behavior, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and a landscape that requires no irrigation.

The River Roofing crew installing the steel panels on the garage. May 2, 2012.

But to get the water we go back to where I started: the roof. “There are a variety of techniques that are employed to ensure the quality and sanitary nature of the drinking water collected from rain,” says Morgan. “First of all, the type of roofing material needs to be appropriate to assure that no unacceptable substances leach into the water.”

Jim Fagan, Desert Rain’s contractor with Timberline, said “It’s rolled steel from Kalama, Washington. They put an LBC [Living Building Challenge]-approved coating on it, and then place it on a big roll and deliver it to River Roofing here in Bend. And they actually fabricate the roof panels here. Steel is one of the things that LBC refers to as globally sourced. There’s a lot of recycled content in almost all steel now–there’s no virgin steel anymore. Steel is steel and we can get it from anywhere. But obviously if we can buy a coil of steel from somewhere in the Northwest, we’re going to stay close.”

This regionally sourced material serves to further the sustainability of the home and to create a dwelling that meets various aspects of Living Building Challenge standards, including respectful use of water.

I’ll close with a compelling quote from Morgan Brown about why water use and conservation is something we should all be thinking about–and why a standard like the Living Building Challenge is now more important that ever.

“From space, Earth appears as a water planet with two-thirds of its surface covered with the liquid. Unfortunately, this is saltwater and life on land requires freshwater to drink and grow the plants that produce our food. Of all the water on Earth, only three percent is freshwater and less than one percent is available to us in the form of rivers, lakes and aquifers that we can use to drink and grow food. To exacerbate the problem, we haven’t done a very good job of taking care of this one percent. With worldwide population at seven billion and climbing, we have been doing a miserable job of stewarding the finite resource we have available. Unlike oil and gold, we can’t live without freshwater. Necessity being the mother of invention, the near future will see drastic changes in how we use and value freshwater.”

– Morgan Brown, Whole Water Systems, Inc.

Video from the Desert Rain site today is included below. (Please excuse the wind noise; there was certainly no escaping it

Weekly Update – Week Ending April 13, 2012

Specific construction concerns & LBC:
It is common during construction to have questions arise that require a site visit and a good look at
several options. Details, on both the interior and exterior, are being worked out between the
contractor James Fagan and the designer Al Tozer. Usually these do not involve any Living
Building Challenge concerns but revolve more around construction techniques and the finish
details. We continue with steady progress on several fronts.
Materials
For the Materials review, Vidas is still awaiting a final lighting plan and fixture selections. It is
anticipated that most, if not all, luminaire choices will already be compliant with LBC. The lighting
designer, Zach Suchara with Luma Lighting in Portland has worked on an LBC project.
Constructed Wetland Bioreactor
The approval process for the Constructed Wetland Bioreactor is in a holding pattern. Vidas is still
talking with several people outside the project who may have experience in other CWBs being
approved in other jurisdictions.
Energy & Lighting & Monitoring Systems
A meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday April 17 to review the capabilities of the CES panel
and begin itemizing all the components and circuits to be monitored and controlled.
Construction Update:
Al, James, Kevin and ML met at the job site April 10 to walk through and discuss any design,
construction and LBC concerns. James and Al talked through flashing detail options for the
exterior stonework. We discussed how the salvaged stone on site could be incorporated into low,
dry stack landscaping stonewalls. James will work on some possible methods and people to help
with that. We also looked at the fascia flashing detail and confirmed the best method as proposed
by Craig Junker at River Roofing.
The formwork for the cistern walls was completely ready and the concrete pour was scheduled to
begin that morning.
James is working on a 2’x2’ sample of the polished concrete with the site-salvaged basalt as the
exposed aggregate. Cement Elegance needs the concrete to attain its full strength before
polishing; that curing takes at least 28 days. This sample would be a close representation of the
surface for the interior concrete floors but would not contain the anticipated coloring. It is not
feasible to color such a small sample.
We discussed the placement of control joints for the stucco, determining that placing them behind
the downspouts on the longer stretches of uninterrupted stucco would be best. There is no
requirement for control joints in the stucco but they can help prevent cracking.
Control joints in the concrete floor will be diamond cut. James and Al to work out the locations.

During framing, care has been taken to caulk all possible sources of air leakage throughout both
the Main house and the ADU. The garages will not be sealed as tightly except for the Mechanical
Room for the Rainwater Collection System.
On the Lighting side, we are still waiting for the final lighting plan and expect it very shortly. It will
be hand drafted, not drafted into CAD. This should be acceptable for the electrician. The difficulty
lies with changes in the floor plan or ceiling plan; the lighting plan cannot be easily updated to
include those changes. The general idea is for the electrician to do a walk-thru to finalize the
lighting & switching decisions and the electrical outlet locations.
Time was spent discussing how best to install the lighting planned for the top of the Miro wall. The
light fixtures are linear, have a very low profile, and will be inset into the top of the wall. We also
reviewed ideas for the art hanging system and how it will interface with the uplighting at the top of
the wall.
We reviewed the change at the Media Room from barn doors to pocket doors. We considered
salvaged door hardware but realized that simple hardware that matches the door hardware
throughout the home is best.
We also examined several options for the joint between wood trim and the interior American Clay
plaster or traditional lime plaster. James will verify that Fry Reglet has a trim piece that will assist
the plaster installation and maintain the desired reveal at any joints with wood or dissimilar
materials. Fry Reglet components are made of extruded aluminum and have been vetted for LBC
compliance.
For the ADU, we reviewed the laundry area and any required venting, confirming that there is
adequate space for everything.

Concrete Poured for the Cistern

Concrete being poured for the cistern's walls. April 10, 2012.

After weeks of building the form walls, the concrete was finally poured into Desert Rain’s cistern today.

Looking down into the cistern from the roof of Desert Rain (with thanks to Jason for climbing up for the shot!). April 10, 2012.

The men working on the cistern were in constant motion. A steady stream of cement trucks delivered concrete to the pumper. The concrete was then pumped dozens of feet up into the air through a pipe and back down to Andy, who guided the concrete into the wall forms.

Andy working the concrete pump. April 10, 2012.

Keith (owner of Central Oregon Concrete Construction)  and Mark followed Andy with a concrete vibrator, which vibrates any air out of the liquid concrete before it sets.

Keith (left) and Mark (right) using a concrete vibrator to settle the concrete in the forms. April 10, 2012.

They worked this way in three-foot increments—pouring and vibrating three feet of concrete at a time as they worked the perimeter of the cistern. They started the process again when they completed one layer.

The cistern is an essential part of Desert Rain’s “living building” design. Tom and Barbara may make one city water purchase to fill up the cistern when they are ready to move in. But after that, it will be a storage and filtration site for the precipitation (rain water and melted snow) that is collected from the roofs of the home and the accessory units. As stated in the Living Building Challenge 2.0 standards:

“One hundred percent of occupants’ water use must come from captured precipitation or closed loop water systems that account for downstream ecosystem impacts and that are appropriately purified without the use of chemicals.”

The cistern has three chambers. Water will flow from the roofs through downspouts and piping into an initial intake chamber; from there, the water moves into the largest of the three chambers, where it is stored before it moves to the third tank, where filtration takes place. From there, it moves into the home for use in everything you use water for in your home: drinking, cooking, showering, toilets, etc.

April 10, 2012.

After a day that saw nearly 160,000 pounds of concrete poured into the forms for the cistern’s walls, Barb and Tom are one step closer to achieving their goal of creating and living in a home that uses only the water that nature provides. We have a brief video of the concrete pour over on our Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/desertrainhouse

Barb looks on as the concrete is poured into the forms for the cistern's walls. April 10, 2012.

 

 

 

 

Water Wisdom

What makes Desert Rain unique is the standard to which it is being built. The Living Building Challenge is both a philosophy and set of principles that guide us toward true sustainability. Living Buildings are designed and constructed to work as efficiently as possible on the resources available in a given space. As stated by the International Living Building Institute, “The underlying principle of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) is that the built environment should regard nature as the ultimate measuring stick for performance.”

LBC puts forth seven performance areas—called Petals:

• Site

• Water

• Energy

• Health

• Material

• Equity

• Beauty

Petals are subdivided into 20 imperatives that focus on a specific sphere of influence. We’ll discuss all of these over time, and you can explore them at www.ilbi.org/lbc, but given that Desert Rain’s cistern is taking shape I’d thought we’d touch on one imperative under the Water Petal: net zero water.

Petal: Water • Imperative 05: Net Zero Water

Net zero water means that 100% of Desert Rain’s water use must be supplied by precipitation at the home site. Bend’s high desert climate averages just over 11 inches of annual precipitation (average based on weather data collected from 1981 to 2010 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). That’s just enough for small family home. That precipitation will be gathered from the various roof tops on the property—the home itself, as well as the accessory dwelling unit and the two garages—and piped down for storage in the 35,000 gallon cistern.

To meet LBC standards, Tom and Barbara are allowed one initial fill-up of the cistern from city water. After that, to meet LBC, they must be able to live within their water means. That is, they can only use what the skies give. If an average family of four needs about 73,000 gallons of water a year, and the roofs at Desert Rain can collect roughly 30,000 to 40,000 gallons, efficiency with water is will be key. Every water fixture in the home will be highly efficient, and Tom and Barbara themselves are already living within a water budget that will be similar to what they’ll need to live under once they move into Desert Rain. Landscaping, of course, is also designed to fit within the area’s water means.

Placing forms for the cistern's walls. March 13, 2012.

The Desert Rain cistern will be located under the home’s main garage. The hole for this concrete structure is so massive that workers need a ladder to get in and out of it. The digging was a long, arduous process—weeks of hammering away at rock with a hydraulic excavator. Last week the footings were poured and set. This week they’re placing the forms for the walls and pouring that concrete as well.

While cisterns are more common in outlying areas dependent on wells, and in areas where water is scarcer, you rarely find them in the middle of a mid-size town. Which is perhaps why I’m so fascinated by this aspect of the project. Imagine—not using water from your municipality. Using only what the environment provides.

Working in the large hole where the cistern is taking shape.

This basic concept could have huge ramifications if it took hold. Think of the lawns we water, the cars we wash, the long showers we take—all the things that take up so much more that what nature provides in many cases and places. It certainly provides food for thought.

 The intent of the Water Petal is to realign how people use water and redefine ‘waste’ in the built environment, so that water is respected as a precious resource. Scarcity of potable water is quickly becoming a serious issue as many countries around the world face severe shortages and compromised water quality. Even regions that have avoided the majority of these problems to date due to a historical presence of abundant fresh water are at risk: the impacts of climate change, highly unsustainable water use patterns, and the continued drawdown of major aquifers portent significant problems ahead.

–          From the Living Building Challenge standards

 

 

Footings in place for the 35,000 gallon cistern. March 11, 2012.

Weekly Update – Week ending March 2, 2012

Specific construction concerns & LBC:
Constructed Wetland Bioreactor
In the permitting process, there are various departments that review and approve (or deny) certain
aspects of a project. Some projects require many departments to weigh in. For instance a large
retail project may need to provide a traffic study for the Engineering Department. Other agencies
review zoning, fire protection access, storm water flows, and other aspects that involve how the
specific project fits into the larger local systems. All are charged with protecting the public health,
safety and welfare.
For the Constructed Wetland Bioreactor (CWB) at Desert Rain, there has been confusion over who
has jurisdiction. For many months, the City of Bend Building Department has been insisting that
they have the authority to review the CWB plans. At our initial permit application, they rejected the
CWB. Morgan and his team have gathered multiple sources that all designate the Public Works
Department as the proper jurisdiction for CWB review. In fact, the regional building codes
ombudsman has reminded the team that the building department’s authority ends two feet beyond
the building wall. The CWB is located outside that realm and falls into the jurisdiction of Public
Works.
Morgan had hoped to reach agreement with the Bend Building Official Robert Mathais that the
CWB is a Public Works concern. Unfortunately, Morgan and team hit a barrier in working with
Mathais. He seems reluctant to accept that the Public Works Department has jurisdiction and that
Public Works has already given preliminary approval to the idea of a Constructed Wetland
Bioreactor at Desert Rain.
Their final conversation ended with Mathais suggesting that Morgan provide a short summary,
outlining exactly what is being requested from Public Works. Mathais then offered to take that
summary, add his plumbing code concerns, and bring it all to a discussion with Public Works.
Morgan decided that that route may not be the best option for securing final approval for the CWB.
At first it seemed we had reached the point where a formal pretreatment application and approval
would be necessary. The team has been quite reluctant to pursue this path because it is highly
likely that no precedent exists here. And, without precedent, the process can be expensive and
time consuming without any certainty of attaining final approval.
In lieu of Mathais’ acknowledging the Public Works authority, Morgan has decided to move toward
attaining a more formal statement from Public Works regarding their domain over pretreatment
programs. He is working with several local DEQ officials to get their input and support. The DEQ
jurisdiction overlaps the City of Bend Public Works domain and, as colleagues, they can offer
useful insights.
The current path is for Morgan to connect with the local DEQ officials, giving them any necessary
information on the Desert Rain CWB. Then he can work with the Bend Public Works Department
to determine a route for review and approval. Our focus is on the CWB as a pretreatment system,
not as a sewage disposal system.
We have also discussed using political pressure to help gain approval. There are several viable
options around this avenue and include engaging City Council members in the discussion. We
would prefer to follow the usual approval pathways but it is helpful to know options are available.
Lighting
Zachary Suchara with Luma Lighting Design has been brought onto the project. He’s working with
Al on the lighting design. Zach has been working on another LBC project, the Bullitt Foundation in
Seattle. His experience will be valuable as we move quickly toward final lighting design and
selections. Of particular importance is developing a lighting scheme that combines super energy
efficiency with low-voltage lighting controls.
Construction Update:
At the construction site, the building forms are taking shape. The trusses for the Main House were
delivered last week bringing many aspects of the design into focus. In spite of the heavy,
continued snowfall during the week, the roof trusses are now in place. (I’ve been told the truss
delivery truck had to chain up to navigate the alley!)
This weekend brought sunshine and a visit to the site was rewarded with a lovely play of light and
shadow in the spaces growing from the house foundation. The framed base for the Moro wall sets
an inviting curve through the structure. Although the site has patches of snow and serious areas of
mud and of course piles of lumber supplies waiting to be installed, one can begin to imagine the
courtyard as defined by the House and the ADU. The framed views are also gaining definition,
both from within the building and from the outdoor spaces.
The excavation for the cistern offers a curious counterpoint. Its deep, basalt-walled pit will
eventually contain the concrete cistern and be capped by the Main House garage. What is now a
void will be a solid building, screening the courtyard spaces from the alley.