A Net Zero Water Home Built on a Budget
Bainbridge Straw Bale
Combining a variety of sustainable techniques to craft an environmentally friendly forest retreat.
Tucked away in a wooded parcel on Bainbridge Island, is one of Washington’s first legally-permitted Net Zero Water homes — possibly the first in Kitsap County. An example of low-impact living, this house is deeply sustainable: not only is it Net Zero Water, but built with straw bale construction and locally-sourced materials.
Beyond simply designing a custom green home, a central project goal was to prove sustainability isn’t a costly luxury out of reach for many homeowners. This made the forest cabin a great candidate for straw bale construction, as not only is straw bale an inherently green building method, it’s also one that can benefit from sweat equity.
By planning to construct the home with the help of volunteers during a series of educational workshops — one on straw bale walls taught by the in-house project team, and others on rainwater harvesting and earth plaster taught by external teams — we helped the owner keep costs under control.
Where possible, we kept wood in its natural, raw edge form. Much of the wood used in the home is reclaimed, and some, like the vine maple branches used for balcony railings, was harvested on-site during construction.
One quirk of straw bale construction is that it lends itself to creating curved surfaces rarely seen with other building methods. We let that curvature take the lead, and the result is a space rich with organic forms, like the softly sloping window openings that diffuse the abundance of natural light.
One curving form that’s hard to miss is situated right outside: a 30,000-gallon cistern that collects rainwater from the roof and provides all the incoming water for the house. The outgoing water, such as the water drained from sinks and bathtubs, is processed by a greywater disposal system rather than a septic system. By filtering and diverting this water back into the surrounding landscape, this effectively eliminates any water waste, as the home’s composting toilets don’t require water at all.
Since its completion, the owner has made the cabin available as a rental property, inviting those curious about low-impact homes to experience the benefits for themselves while enjoying a peaceful getaway in the woods.
Notes & Credits
Photography by Michael Zarieki.
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