The couple began to build their “conventional” dream home on the same 0.7 acre lot in 2008, but upon hearing about the Living Building Challenge in the fall of 2009, they made the painful decision to scrap their original plans and shoot for the challenge. The result is a beautiful estate made up of five buildings, including the main residence, a detached apartment, a second detached building that can be used as an office or guest space, and the home’s two garages.
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The new construction began by repurposing materials from two aging mill houses that were previously on the lot. In addition to salvaging the existing materials, the team went far and beyond in finding sustainable, locally-sourced materials for the new home. In addition to the recovered wood already salvaged, reclaimed wood and FSC-certified lumber were brought in from the surrounding region.
Additional materials were also specially made for the home’s green construction, such as the exterior plaster, which is almost entirely made out of local clay, straw, and sand. To conserve energy and costs whenever possible, other materials were constructed by the team by ordering and crafting the materials onsite. For example, rather than purchasing the items separately, a large roll of steel was ordered and cut onsite to construct the roofing, eaves, and rain gutters.
Desert Rain is a power house of sustainability as well as energy efficiency. The home uses three renewable energy systems, including a solar array on the rooftop, a solar thermal drainage system that heats water and powers the hydronic floor system, and an innovative solar “hot air” system that is used to evaporate liquid from the home’s composting system.
Given that the home is located in the arid high-desert region of Eastern Oregon, where the climate is dry and annual rainfall scarce, water conservation can be complicated for any homeowner. This made achieving the Net Zero Water criteria of the project a complicated task. However, using the unique layout of the five buildings, a rainwater collection system was conceived using the standing seam metal roofs to route rainwater through downspouts to the ground-level gravel filters to be used in the landscaping, which features mainly native plantings.
Via Living Future
Photography by Chandler Photography