The Transformation of Heron Hall

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Designer: McLennan Design

Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington

Growing up Jason McLennan was fascinated with The Wind in the Willows, a story about 3 animals living next to a river and having great adventures together.

So on a fateful day scouting land for his new home he encountered a heron’s swoop, a crow’s caw, and a toad’s ribbit, deciding it was only fit to name his home Heron Hall as a homage to Toad Hall in the tale.

Jason McLennan is a man of many talents. He clearly has an affinity for woodland creatures, but more importantly, he’s leading the way in Greenbuilding as the CEO of McLennan Design, a chairman of the International Living Future Institute, and founder of the Living Building Challenge.

So let’s take a tour, shall we:

When Jason decided to build Heron Hall he knew it would be the McLennan family home, so it had to be special.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Living Building Challenge, it’s a green building-certification system widely regarded as the world’s most stringent set of performance standards focused on sustainability.

Only 21 projects have achieved full Living Building status since the program’s launch in 2007. September marked Heron Hall becoming the 100th project worldwide to be LBC certified, gaining a Petal status of three. However, the McLennan team plans to obtain the remaining four Petals in the next year in order to earn the coveted full status spot.

For Heron Hall’s initial Petal certification, Place, Water, and Beauty Petals were targeted.

The project heavily relies on the locale of Bainbridge for its essence – labor, materials, and industries were all utilized from the island. It is a localist project at its core, celebrating local ecology and artisan traditions.

By focusing on utilizing the living in all its forms, recycled materials help hold the house together.

Beyond the function of repurposing, these materials were chosen for their “stories, patinas, and references to place, nature, and history”.

Function, form, and beauty were all taken into consideration at every step. For example, they used insulated structural rammed earth walls to form interior and exterior surfaces. Also, the exterior walls are constructed from a charred wood finish called Yakisugi (no drywall is used).

And finally a note back to the ecology of the area – Heron Hall is the first building in the community off the water grid. This means it’s only the fourth single family residence in the world to achieve the Water Petal.

If you recognize the incredible David Trubridge lighting fixtures – the reason why our friends at DT were chosen for the space is simple; the philosophies of the two designers just fit. The space has a large double height volume – so they needed lights with real presence, and there’s not many that encapsulate natural forms while remaining elegant.

Jason notes, “there is something magical at night that happens when the lights are on and the patterns are cast on our walls. It’s like living in a beautiful fantasy.”

To learn even more about Heron Hall and its LBC certification, go here.

Photography by Daniel Banko of Banko Media + Declan McLennan

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