Welcome to the Silver Rock Residence (in progress). As we prepare to give our first large-scale site tour we wanted to take a moment to summarize the genesis of this project. We hope that our narrative gives you a sense of why and how this dwelling came to be…
We are a family of four that began to contemplate building a home in 2015. Our backgrounds in Medicine and Public Health instilled in us the belief that “home” would need to be a place where the house and the people in it could be part of the ecosystem of Bainbridge Island and one that would give Earth more than it would take (during construction and in perpetuity). We dreamed of a home that would inspire change, produce more energy than it would consume, and restore the ecology and habitat of island land infested with invasive species.
These goals led us to explore various green building approaches (LEED certification, Passivhaus, passive solar design, etc). While these frameworks offered “green” strategies, they did not present an integrative approach that addressed appropriate site selection, water sustainability, positive energy, human wellness, uncompromising material standards, and social equity in one framework. We began to wonder if our goals were a bit too lofty. Then we met Jason McLennan and discovered the Living Building Challenge (LBC). The LBC resonated so deeply with our vision that we embarked with McLennan Design on a journey to transform our big goals into reality…into a home.
Pursuing Full Living Building Certification, A Petal By Petal Breakdown
PLACE- We purchased this greenfield surround by 75% pre-existing development with the idea of placing most of the land purchased in a conservation easement to protect remaining healthy vegetation and serve as a wildlife corridor (adjacent properties are either deemed critical habitat areas or are also held within conservation easements, creating over 15+ acres of contiguous habitat for native species).
WATER- Water will come from two areas of the property: a deep well on the south end and from the 5000 gallon cisterns located (soon) behind the garage. Harvested rain water will be used for irrigation of the garden and a xeriscaping/pollinator meadow. Grey and Black water are returned to the aquifer through a leach field, and harvested rainwater will return directly to the aquifer, completing the water cycle. Net positive water status will be achieved through year-round use of 5000 gallon capacity rain water cisterns. Inside the home, low flow fixtures will support conservation.
ENERGY- a 10kW Solar Panel Array was salvaged from a building several miles away that was slated for demolition. The project team worked to uninstall all components of the system: solar panels, micro-inverters, mounting racks, etc. The system will be re-installed at the project site and paired with a Tesla Powerwall for net positive energy and will also serve as a back up power system for power outages that are frequent during the winter months.
HEALTH and HAPPINESS- Silver Rock aims to connect all occupants with the beautiful woodland ecosystem outside the home. The home was intentionally placed on the property in a way that highlights specific trees and natural landmarks through windows and walls of glass. All rooms have natural light entering from at least two sides and many skylights and high windows bring a sense of connection to sky and treetops. This directly impacts the health and happiness of occupants by reducing stress and creating connection and cohesion.
MATERIALS- Materials have been vetted and carefully selected from the onset of the project. We have focused on site-derived materials when possible. Once finished, all exterior and interior visible wood (including siding, decking, beams, flooring, casework) will be milled from trees on the property. Framing is FSC certified. We have also curated salvage materials, including a number of large re-claimed old growth fir beams from a fish cannery in Alaska, as well as the solar array mentioned above, hot water heaters, and many small electrical/mechanical parts saved from the landfill. SIREWALL materials were comprised of local soil. For interior finishes yet to come, we continue to identify materials made by local manufacturers that are committed to product transparency and LBC ideals.
EQUITY- The property has a trail system that weaves around its edges and connects to neighboring properties and equestrian stables. These trails will be maintained by us and we invite ongoing use by people, horses, dogs, deer, bears, coyotes, etc. We believe that our neighbors (furry and not) should be able to walk through the forest and appreciate it in their own way. Furthermore, educational tours and opportunities to visit and learn about the project/property will be provided at least annually to share the tenants of the LBC and encourage future projects that embrace its framework.
BEAUTY: The rich history of Bainbridge Island creates many opportunities to celebrate the past, present, and future at Silver Rock. First, the use of site-milled timber represents a responsible use of timber, a gesture we make consciously in a place that was once clearcut for the benefit of timber mills and shipyards in the 1800’s located in nearby Port Madison. We want to model responsible timber use in a part of the world heavily influenced by timber harvesting.
Second, we used site and locally derived materials to build SIREWALL, the large rammed earth wall that extends the full length of the home. Its carbon footprint is minimal compared to what concrete would have been. Its strength and longevity also exceed that of concrete. The rammed earth was mixed on-site, poured batch by batch into plywood forms, and “rammed” with a handheld tamping devices. We love the striations and variation in the rammed earth (and the fact that we were able to help build the wall).
Another element of beauty is expressed in the finish treatment of our siding, a method called Shou Sugi Ban. Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese wood-charring technique that takes the raw board and torches it lengthwise. this leaves a thin outer layer of wood that is charred and made resistant to moisture, mold, and pests. In choosing this siding type, we honor and acknowledge the history of the Japanese-American community on Bainbridge Island.
You may or may not know that the internment and exclusion of American Citizens with Japanese ancestry began on Bainbridge Island during WWII. At that time, the Island community was outspoken in its objection to the actions of the US government and our local newspaper published many scathing condemnations of these actions. In the community, neighbors banded together to “purchase” (sometimes for $1) farms and homesteads of those being excluded. These farms were tended by others in the community and were “sold back” (for $1) or returned to their rightful owners when they eventually came home. The Bainbridge community takes pride in continuing to stand for inclusion and respect for rights of all humans.
We hope that this summary has been useful. Thank you for visiting the site and supporting the Living Building Challenge.