When Barb and Tom started the process of the Desert Rain project, they knew that demonstration and education would be part of the goal. Hundreds of people have visited the site to learn about the leading edge technologies for the built environment, the process of building to meet The Living Building Challenge, and to view first-hand the materials and construction techniques being used on Desert Rain.
One group of recent visitors were sixth and seventh grade students from Powell Butte Charter School. They are studying sustainability in the classroom. They were excited to be up close and personal to a sustainable project and see elements such as the extensive array of photovoltaic modules. Barb and Tom reviewed the Desert Rain story – from the deconstruction of the existing homes to the current state, visibly a home, coming closer to completion.
Desert Rain manages construction waste differently than a traditional construction site. There is not a dumpster on site. Materials are separated into piles to be composted, upcycled or re-purposed, recycled, or land-filled. The students were asked to manage the waste from their lunches in much the same way; deciding what could be recycled, what could be composted, and what would go to the landfill.
The students from Powell Butte Charter School had a sunny day to tour the site, learn about the process of sustainable building, and be introduced to the Living Building Challenge. The following day a Clean Energy Service Corps team arrived in a bitter, cold, rain to view first-hand some of the latest technology in sustainable building design. Clean Energy Service Corps is one of the programs under the umbrella of the Heart of Oregon Corps. Both organizations have a mission ‘to inspire and empower positive change in the lives of young people through jobs, education, and stewardship’. The CESC group here in Bend partners with Habitat for Humanity to learn about energy-efficient home design, weatherization, and construction skills. Part of their service is to give back doing a variety of community service projects, primarily focused on insulation installation.
Desert Rain is an excellent demonstration site for the CESC team to view alternative energy technologies and insulation materials. They primarily work with the standard, fiberglass insulation batts so they could appreciate the eco-friendly ECO-Batts, the benefits of the spray-foam, the blown-in cellulose, and the recycled cotton batts used at the Desert Rain site. The team was familiar with blower door testing to determine the tightness of the building envelope. They were surprised by the extremely low numbers of the tests conducted at Desert Rain. The goal for Desert Rain is to meet or exceed the Passive House standard of .60 Air Changes per Hour (ACH). In the preliminary test conducted before drywall was installed and without under-floor foam insulation – Desert Rain had an impressive .65 ACH! For more on the insulation story, please read the blog, Making the Grade
Barb and Tom’s vision of reaching out to community and sharing the process of their extreme, green, dream has brought 18 groups of visitors to the site to date. The groups vary in numbers and ages but everyone can come away from a tour at Desert Rain with an idea, an insight, or a dream of their own about sustainability in the built environment. Andrew, one of the Clean Energy Service Corps team members even went away with a piece of Desert Rain. He was inspired by the memorial plaque of the ponderosa pine that had been removed from the site. Barb sent him away with a giant slab of that ponderosa pine. He is contemplating a project that will be a reminder of his visit to Desert Rain and what he learned here. Desert Rain is very much an educational process; for Tom and Barb, for the design/build team, for the sub-contractors, material manufacturers, local businesses, and for the many visitors that toured the project. The educational element will continue as the building process moves forward and on completion, Desert Rain will remain as a visible demonstration of what is possible.