The Whole HOG: January 2013

Water-centric Green Design News

Rainwater HOG is looking back on a successful 2012. And, as we move into 2013, we’re looking outward for more, from a green building industry perspective on rainwater harvesting to the establishment of a National Green Building Standard in Hawaii.  This month, we have Apps to bring rainwater harvesting and global warming to your door; not to mention personal, national, and global perspectives on water on this transforming planet.

With global warming in mind, Chuck Henderson is taking tangible action by creating super- flexible, super-strong, and super-inexpensive conic shelters. Read about them in our B.U.G. Design section.

January 2013: HOG Review of 2012

HOG collage 2012Rainwater HOG had a productive 2012, watching our customer base expand and sharing the bounty of rainwater harvesting across the U.S. and internationally in a variety of venues – from big city affordable housing developments to big island affordable housing developments, from elementary schools to LEED Platinum homes, and from contests to conferences.

                                        What People Are Saying

“I liked [the HOG tank] not only for its technical purpose, but also for its innovative design that I thought the kids would connect with. At that age the “cool factor” weighs in on personal connection.”
– Mindy Germain, co-chair Daly Green Committee on HOG tanks at the Daly School Garden

“Water is already a scarce resource, even more so on an island. We anticipate changes in utility fees and building codes to encourage more harvesting of rainwater. HOGs are an important first step in that dialogue.”
– Daniel Sandomire, Vice President of Armstrong Development, Ltd. on HOG tanks at the Department of Hawaiian Homelands Maui development

“Instead of taxing the taps, the home’s drought-tolerant garden can be watered with runoff from the roof… Because the HOGs [tanks] are slim, they can be positioned directly under a downspout without blocking the walkway – a necessity on a tight city lot like this.”

– Dwell Magazine on HOG tanks at the Simpatico Prototype House

January 2013: Perspectives on Water

Global Warming 

2012 was the hottest year on record in the USA, further establishing the increasing effect of climate change on the planet. With global warming comes an increase of extreme weather events, such as what Australia has been experiencing – flooding fast on the heels of an unprecedented heat wave and bush fires.

The Whole HOG’s much referenced science guy, Robert Krulwich turned us on to what he calls “Miss Piggy’s version of global warming” wherein scientists (at the New Scientist website) published an interactive graph that answers the question, ‘What about me?’ Use the New Scientist App to click on a map of the world, anywhere in the world, and see how the temperature has changed in that location since 1950. A chilling – or should I say fever-inducing – illustration of climate change close to home.

As we enter 2013, we’re thinking about water (in light of global warming) from three different perspectives: personal, national (apologies to our international readers for our American-centric leanings), and global.

We’re taking the Miss Piggy approach direct to your roof with the rooftop rain harvest calculator. This app from Save the Rain lets you find and highlight any roof in the world visible from Google maps (preferably your roof) to figure out how much rainwater it could be collecting annually. A farm in Southwest Colorado, one close to this writer’s heart (it belongs to my mom), where the average annual rainfall is 11.81 inches could be collecting approximately 10,643 gallons a year. That’s 4,447 toilet flushes. How much could you collect?

(*Head’s up, this info is calculated in the metric system. Google provides an easy conversion method, For example, simply type in “300 mm = ?? inches” as your search term. 11.81 inches will come up as the answer.)

In the USA a water main breaks every 2 minutes, resulting in 1.7 billion gallons of water lost every year.  Accessible graphics, colorful stats, and up-to-date data distinguishes the 2012 Value of Water Index from recent reports. The study, put on by Xylem, presents findings from ‘a nationwide poll of American voters detailing what they think should be done about the country’s water crisis and who should pay for it.’

value of water index

©Xylem Value of Water Index

In 2010, 80% of Americans believed our water system needed reform. In 2012, that percentage has grown to 88%. Seventy-nine percent of the American public recognize that demand is growing and water is becoming scarce. But, the factors contributing to a water crisis remain hazy for many. Click on the graph, pictured left, for more.


Sierra Leone

A public latrine in Freetown’s Grey Bush slum where cholera struck. Public bathrooms are generally in poor order and costly to use. ©Mustafah Abdulaziz



Unsafe water sources and poor sanitation make the water crisis in developing countries more visceral. Often there is inadequate infrastructure to serve large urban populations, as in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone where a population of 2 million people live in a city with an infrastructure built for half that many.  Photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz focuses on the role of water as a carrier of epidemic and disease in a thought-provoking project, funded by the Pulitzer Center, called “Water is Gold”. In it, he documents the aftermath of the worst outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone’s history.

January 2013: Green Building Industry Perspective

Hawaii’s National Green Building Standard

Hawaii NGBS home


We originally encountered this remodeled home (shown left), the first to be certified to Hawaii’s nascent National Green Building Standard, in November 2012, making note of their use of HOG tanks for garden irrigation.

“The biggest lesson we learned is that a certified green home can be built for the same price as a regular home,” explains Leanne Bossert. She is president and co-owner of Bossert Builders, the general contractors who rebuilt the home after it burnt in an electrical fire.  Read more about this green home’s rise from the ashes in the EcoHome article.

Contractor Magazine Taps into a Natural Resource

A recent article in Contractor Magazine showcases recent rainwater catchment system installations, mostly large-scale for toilet flush and irrigation, across the United States. From Washington state to Illinois, North Carolina, and Virginia, writer Candace Roulo makes the case for rainwater harvesting as a useful tool in the arsenal of plumbers, green builders, and mechanical contractors.

January 2013: B.U.G. (Beautiful. Useful.Green) Design


Chuck Henderson’s 1,050 square foot conic, which he uses as an open-air workshop. ©Chuck Henderson

       Conic Shelters

“Have you taken it to the breaking point?” asks Chuck Henderson, designer of conic shelters (conics, for short).  That question led to a computer-generated structural analysis of an 80′ x 40′ conic shelter, weighing 80 tons, which was shown to support 13,000 tons before collapsing.

Keenly aware of the repercussions of global warming, Chuck is designing gorgeous, and ruggedly versatile architectural shelters – conics – on the cheap.

Why is it beautiful? These conical structures, built from thin materials like plywood or reinforced ferro-cement type concrete, adhere to basic geometric formulas. The conic shell flexed into striking curves ‘acts as sheathing, structure and roofing’ of the shelter. The soft waves of the roofs evoke the swoop and rise of mountaintops, molded by wind and weather. And just like those mountain ranges, conics are built to withstand extremes.

Why is it useful? “Our goal is to create minimal structures with maximum structural integrity in all loading configurations – hurricane, earthquake, snow, even tornado,” explains Chuck. His continued emphasis on performance testing conics for flexibility and durability – they dot his property outside of Gualala, California in various configurations and stages of completion – allows him to develop stronger, cheaper solution for shelter.

Why is it green? Conics are multi-purpose shelters, as likely to appear as open-air workshops as enclosed living spaces. Not only are they designed to be durable, they’re easy and affordable to construct, requiring a minimum of building materials. Conics have made appearances at Burning Man, and multi-unit conic villages have been proposed for refugee or homeless shelters.

This is just the kind of visually and structurally strong, environmentally-conscious housing solution of which we’d like to see more!

Check out Sally’s blog for more B.U.G. Designs.