Bend couple's home produces more energy than it uses, recycles u - KPTV - FOX 12

Bend couple's home produces more energy than it uses, recycles used water

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An Oregon couple just became the first in the nation to build and live in a certified house that not only produces more energy than it uses, but also recycles every drop of used water.

It's all part of something called the Living Building Challenge.

On a dead-end street, in the heart of Bend sits a compound unlike any other called Desert Rain. It's a residential compound with a main residence, two apartments, a garage and an outbuilding.

No other home in the country is said to have a smaller impact on the environment.

"Everything has a story, everything," said owner Barbara Scott.

Every material used to build the Desert Rain house is said to be sustainable, down to the nails that hold the home together.

"Fortunately, it's one of those things, maybe like childbirth, where it's a good thing you don't know quite what you're getting into," said owner Tom Elliot.

It's a labor of love for Elliot and Scott that's been six plus years in the making. The two say they always wanted to build a green home, but then heard about something called the Living Building Challenge.

The challenge is considered a rigorous competition to create buildings that give more than they take.

"When we heard about it, it was as if there was a huge aha moment that occurred for us," said Scott.

The two discussed it with their design team who together accepted that challenge. Using solar arrays on top of each building at the compound, the team figured out a way to generate more energy than they ever use.

"We've had net positive energy for three years," said Elliot.

The biggest hurdle, they say, was designing and manufacturing a water recycling system for the compound. But, the design team figured that out too.

"The water system starts with the roof collection and then it goes down the spout and then goes through a gravel filter," said Elliot.

Rain water is gathered from the outside and filtered several times over. It's then pumped straight into the house.

"When you turn the water on in the kitchen sink, it's rain water, so that's the fresh water," said Scott.

All water used to clean dishes, or take showers, is drained back outside and into an underground constructed wetland.

"That water is filtered out here, and its naturally filtered by the bacteria in the wetland and then it comes out as class two gray water that we use for irrigation and other water features," said Elliot.

All sewage gets pumped into a third system, where solids are turned into compost and all liquids wind up being evaporated.

"Nothing is going into the sewer now, in over two years," said Elliot.

Many others took on the Living Building Challenge, but the two just recently found out their extreme green dream home is listed as the first ever Residential Living Certified Building.

"I personally always believed we could do it. There were certainly times where we hit the wall and we questioned and said, 'maybe we let this one go, let's just do some of the challenge petals and not all of them, there were frustrations there, but I think as a team and as individuals we had this sort of never give up kind of attitude," said Elliot.

That attitude is now shaping the future of sustainable homes everywhere.

"I believe firmly that this could be done at a market rate price and I'm sure there are people doing that as we speak. That would be an awesome next project for anyone that's considering it," said Scott.

The two say when all was said and done the whole project cost them $3.4 million dollars.

For more information on the Living Building Challenge visit:

For more information on the Desert Rain House visit:

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