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An unassuming wood house in Bend, Ore., became an international benchmark late last year when the single-family complex, called the Desert Rain House, achieved the first Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification for a residential project.

The LBC program, developed by the International Living Future Institute, identifies net-zero energy and water buildings that positively impact their environment. A new building must pass 20 imperatives in seven performance areas—place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty—and sustain them for more than a year.

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Designed by local firm Tozer Design, the 4,810-square-foot compound is made up of a one-story residence, two detached guest apartments, and two garages, all constructed out of locally sourced materials. Precipitation is the only water source, and a graywater system treats used water from everything except toilets and dishwashers for irrigation. Sixty-five solar panels generate energy for the house. “The biggest and most beautiful feature is when you turn on the water,” says Barbara Scott, one of the owners. “You know that it is coming from the rain and the snow.”

The Desert Rain House joins only 11 other projects that have received Living Building status in the world and is also LEED Platinum and Earth Advantage Platinum certified.

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A book on the Desert Rain project, Desert Rain House: Resilient Building, Sustainable Living in the High Desert, was published in 2015 and added to the EcoTone Publishing’s library of Living Building Challenge case studies. The book follows the owners and collaborators through the obstacles of building the house, and could help pave the way for future residential project teams interested in receiving certification.

Chandler Photography