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  • Writer's pictureMolly Jones

The Joinery and the Living Building Challenge

Do you think about why, what, and how you build? It’s possible to improve lives and heal communities while being a good steward to the environment. And “The Joinery” is a shining example of what is possible when we build beautifully!

Where can a passion for sustainability take you?

Nathan Pickard had a vision for his new residence, The Joinery. When we first met Nathan, he wanted a home that went beyond sustainability. He wanted to build a home that would restore the neighborhood and give back to the community.

Nathan already had a passion for urban agriculture. He creates community gardens in the middle of a food desert where lifespans are shortened due to lack of access to healthy food alternatives. Nathan wanted The Joinery to be an extension of the amazing work he was already doing in the community.

Creating a building beautifully framework for The Joinery

We decided to join forces and build The Joinery using an aspirational rating system known as the “Living Building Challenge.” We registered Oklahoma’s first project seeking the Living Building Challenge certification. With less than two dozen Living Buildings in the world today, we realized the word “challenge” was intentional.

This system requires a fundamentally mindful approach to building. We are intentional with every decision we make, and we understand the impact that our decisions will have on the occupants, neighbors, community, and environment. In order to accomplish this, we used a framework of values built around three significant areas:

Value 1: The Joinery is community-centric

The first area of our framework is to create a community-centric home rather than an owner-centric home. Yes, The Joinery is a single-family residence, but there’s a significant twist. There is robust urban agriculture on-site so that the Pickard family can host large gatherings with their friends, neighbors, and community.

Value 2: The Joinery will generate more energy and water than it needs

Our second framework area is to generate more energy and water than the building needs, while creating a healthy indoor environment and eliminating waste. We do this by:

  • Exhaustively screening each new material that comes into the building. All material is free of chemicals that let off gas into the interior and cause health problems.

  • Focusing on using salvage materials wherever possible. For example, the floor of the The Joinery was once the dance floor at Tulsa’s iconic Cain’s Ballroom! We also used timber from a deconstructed mill.

  • Eliminating waste on the project. This means finding people who can take the construction and demolition debris and repurpose it to use it in a meaningful way. It also means setting up systems so that the Pickard family can compost their food, recycle, and repurpose.

  • Building a solar array on the roof. Excess energy is transferred back to the electrical grid for others to use.

  • Incorporating other energy efficient features like a 12” thermal mass wall, LED lighting, and operable windows.

All of these features combine to make a very comfortable yet very efficient interior environment

Value 3: The Joinery will balance efficiency with comfort

The third area that we included in our framework was balancing opposing systems. The more energy efficient we need our buildings to become, the more control we need to exert over those buildings. We want to strike a balance between efficiency and comfort to achieve a truly sustainable building.

Our biggest accomplishment!

Our biggest challenge on this project was finding a way for The Joinery to efficiently use and dispose of water. And our biggest challenge became our biggest accomplishment! We worked with the City of Tulsa Mayor’s office, the Tulsa City council, the Tulsa County Health Department, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to create an ordinance that would allow The Joinery to install on-site wastewater systems and become a net-zero water residence.

The Joinery is able to capture its rainfall, filter and store it in cisterns, then filter it again and treat it with a UV treatment system when it’s needed for use. Coupled with the aerobic system onsite (thanks to Tulsa’s net-zero water ordinance), The Joinery is achieving net-positive water!

Are you ready to build beautifully?

The Joinery is built beautifully. And we hope that it inspires you in your own projects, no matter the scope or the size. We can create more than just an aesthetically beautiful building. We can make the process of building mindful and thus more beautiful every step of the way.



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