Jason McLennan, CEO of McLennan Design and founder of Living Building Challenge challenges housing leaders by building his own home as a record-breaking, astounding inspiration to energy efficiency and a new way of living.

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.”

“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.

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