Heron Hall: one of the greenest buildings ever, and home

Architect Jason F. McLennan’s gloriously groundbreaking new family home is on its way to becoming the state’s first certified residential Living Building.

THE FIRST SIGN was tangible: “Lot for sale,” it read, all nonchalantly, in handwritten letters — as if this weren’t the site of a zillion future superlatives.

Architect Jason F. McLennan notices signs. This time, he and his family were in the market for a promising lot on Bainbridge Island; had been for a couple of years. And this lot, so close to a booming estuary, a restored salmon stream and blissful Pleasant Beach, certainly seemed exceptional: a lush and sunny, forested and flat acre, give or take, that feels five times bigger. “Exceptional” was crucial: While the McLennans were eager to settle in on the island, they were not keen to settle.

“The lot needed to have a mix of characteristics,” McLennan says. “We like the south end (of the island); you can see the water but have privacy. We needed good solar and didn’t want to cut down beautiful cedars and firs. And we wanted the right spirit.”

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Cue ethereal signs Two, Three and Four.

“Building a home sometimes is a leap of faith,” McLennan says. “I was hemming and hawing: ‘Should I do it for sure?’ I went for a walk around the site to think about it. I thought, ‘Maybe I need some sort of sign.’ Just as I thought that, a crow screeched and landed on the estuary railing. I thought, ‘Maybe that’s not enough.’ I got to the forest, and a heron took off. Then I thought, ‘If I get a third …,’ and I walked to the stream, and a big frog jumped across my path. Three totem animals.

“It was meant to be,” he says.

It was meant to be Heron Hall.

Inspired by the stately birds that stalk the public, human-made Schel-Chelb estuary; by McLennan’s childhood fondness for “The Wind in the Willows” and Toad Hall; and by the ecological motivators that drive who McLennan is, how he designs and how he lives, Heron Hall is a genuinely groundbreaking tribute to regenerative design, local materials, salvaged treasures and bespoke green products and techniques — one of the most advanced buildings ever.

Heron Hall is a home of significant firsts. But first, Heron Hall is home.

McLENNAN’S CREDENTIALS read like a Who’s Who of Green Building whose subtitle spells out: Jason F. McLennan, That’s Who.

Born in Canada 44 years ago, the CEO of McLennan Design is an innovator, an influencer and a profound believer whose Earth-friendly approach to design, architecture and life itself resonates and inspires worldwide. He’s received the Buckminster Fuller Prize (pretty much the Pulitzer for socially responsible design) and the 2016 national Award of Excellence from Engineering News-Record. He’s a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council and the Ashoka Foundation for social entrepreneurs. He’s the author…

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