From rammed-earth walls to foam-flush composting toilets, Jason F. McLennan’s family home is home to many firsts.
HERON HALL, WHICH IS on track to become the first certified Living Building home in Washington, is home to lots of other firsts. Here’s a look at some:
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• With a glistening steel, 15,000-gallon cistern from RainBank Rainwater Systems, Heron Hall is the first rainwater-only residence in Kitsap County — and one of the first in the country, homeowner/designer Jason F. McLennan says. The cistern stores collected water; once it’s inside, it’s treated by UV and carbon filters en route to a smaller buffer tank. “A truly zero-impact water system,” he says: “no fluoride, no chlorine, no residual drugs or contaminants in our water supply.” (Rainwater used for growing food collects in a smaller southside pool, which happily doubles as a little lap lane.)
• The walls of Heron Hall’s car court, two-story stair tower and entire first floor are rammed-earth — an ancient technique beautifully adapted for modern sustainability. Engineered from local stone, hand-compacted with a pneumatic compactor, seismically reinforced with rebar and filled with insulation that makes the assembly R-40, “Rammed earth is a literal stabilizing presence; it feels solid,” McLennan says. The SIREWALL system developed in Canada is durable and nontoxic, he says — and groundbreaking: “I believe this may be the first time ever that a rammed-earth wall has integrated car-charging.”
• Heron Hall’s bathrooms, all three, are equipped with tankless, foam-flush composting toilets — they are so groundbreaking, McLennan had to effect a change in the local municipal code to allow them. “You flush them before you go,” he says. “A (biodegradable) soapy rinse comes out and lubricates the bowl. The waste goes out, and it’s all being composted. I can make soil after 18 months to spread in the yard.” Extra bonus: “It’s elegant. There’s a gentle breeze on the bum, and no odor!”
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• There’s only one tiny bit of drywall here, and that’s a slice of Sheetrock under the staircase to separate the mechanical room. Everywhere else, it’s a virtual gallery of local wood, Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and reclaimed and repurposed materials. (There’s also only one deliberately imported element here: the dangling David Trubridge lights, from New Zealand.)
• Thanks to the family’s Tesla, and the solar panels that charge it (and their home), McLennan says, “There are no carbon emissions from our cars or our house. Even in the cloudy Northwest, we are totally carbon-free on an annual basis.”
• Some sponsors donated or discounted materials for Heron Hall, McLennan says; he also worked with companies such as Coldspring (Earth Measure exterior paver tiles), Neil Kelly Cabinets (the first Red List-free kitchen cabinetry line) and ECOS Paints (a new line of super-green paints) to create his own. “We’ve debuted new products and lots of new prototypes,” he says.