Aug/Sept 2013: Omaha North High School

Omaha North High School  II  Omaha, Nebraska II  USA

The high school students at Omaha North installed their HOGs themselves, learning the practicalities of rainwater catchment and reuse, and irrigating their school garden.

Omaha HS wedge

“The Rainwater HOGs fit perfectly,” said Lee Kallstrom, Engineering Technologies Department at the time of the installation. Two years later he reports, “I’m still extremely happy with your product.”

Year of Install: 2011

Installation Stats Omaha North magnet high school built a LEED silver four-story addition and a two-story greenhouse. Two HOG tanks are in the wedge between the new and old building collecting rainwater for landscape irrigation, and one waters plants in the greenhouse. “I can water the entire place in 5 minutes when I turn the HOG on,” says Lee Kallstrom from the Engineering Technologies department.

Science, engineering and technology are the focus at Omaha North magnet high school in suburban Omaha, Nebraska. With students doing the hands-on installation themselves, they learn practical construction techniques alongside the sustainability principles taught in the technical curriculum and illustrated by the building and greenhouse.

Where is it now? The school, which earned a silver certification for its sustainable addition, is the first in Nebraska to be certified under the LEED for Schools system rating.

By building green, Omaha North H.S. reduced its energy use by 20% and its potable water consumption (with low-flow sinks, dual-flush toilets, and rainwater tanks) by 43%.

In the winter of 2012, “the wedge” platform gave way in -20ºF temperatures. Students rebuilt in the spring (at a height of 24 inches to allow the water to drain completely from the tanks) and took the extra security measure of strapping the two HOG tanks to the building.

Aug/Sept 2013: B.U.G. (Beautiful.Useful.Green) Design

                         Australia Wins 2013 Solar Decathlon China

This August, the University of Wollongong in Australia took home first place in the China Solar Decathlon 2013 with their Illawara Flame House.

illawarra flame house

The Illawara Flame House designed by UOW Australia. Image via Inhabitat.

Co-hosted by the US Department of Energy, and the National Energy Administration China, this was the inaugural Solar Decathlon on Asian soil.  Much as American and European competitions do, the China 2013 competition challenges university teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

Why is it beautiful? Richard King, from the US Department of Energy, calls the victory of the first ever retrofitted home to enter the competition “remarkable.” He commended the Illawara Flame as a  “modern, very energy efficient house that won the praise of everyone who [went] into it.” The Australian team was inspired by their native Illawara Flame Tree’s spring time renewal and transformation – a metaphor for their radical approach to refurbishing an existing home rather than creating a brand new building.

Why is it useful? “It all began with the idea of retrofit,” Team UOW explain in their walk-through video of the Illawara Flame home, which has been designed for an older couple whose children have left home. The home design emphasizes water efficiency, solar energy harvesting, passive design and advanced ventilation systems.

Three bedrooms have been converted into two, with a large open space for the dining room and living room. Multiple windows promote flow between indoor and outdoor space.

Why is it green? With 8 million homes in Australia that account for 13% of carbon dioxide emissions, refurbishing existing ‘fibro’ homes to a net zero energy standard upcycles homes for the next generation. It also eliminates the waste of tearing down existing buildings.

“The Illawarra Flame is perfect for clients looking to downsize while ensuring a clean energy future for their grandchildren,” explains Team UOW. The jurors thought so too, and Australians took home first prize!

Want more info on a ‘fibro’ house and exactly how it fits into the Australian landscape? Check out this informative overview from Matt Hickman at Mother Nature Network.

Visit Sally’s Blog for more B.U.G. Designs.

July 2013: Team ASUNM to Bring HOG to Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon 2013: Team ASUNM Presents SHADE Home

This October 20 university teams from across the world will present the culmination of over two years of work with their state-of-the-art green homes. The Solar Decathlon 2013, to be held in Irvine, California from October 3 through 13, challenges student teams to design, build and present net zero energy homes.

Each team is encouraged to design and build a solar, modular home that answers the needs of their particular environment within a greater framework of sustainability.

Here’s the framework:

“The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

Rainwater HOG is delighted to announce that Team ASUNM, a collaboration between Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico, will be using six HOG tanks in their SHADE home.

SHADE is an acronym for solar homes adapting for desert equilibrium, and the team’s “ultimate goal is to create a model for sustainable desert living.”

Team ASUNM video

Arizona State University and The University of New Mexico Computer Animated Walk-through

What we like about the contest framework is that it allows for a greater diversity of design while encouraging students to strategize solutions for specific locations. The Solar Decathlon also provides students with invaluable hands-on experience in multiple aspects of the green building industry.

So, while Team ASUNM envisions a solution for urban sprawl in the desert environment (where the city of Phoenix has grown to 4.5 million people), the Middlebury College Team has designed their New England home with wood flooring harvested from sugar maples – the Vermont state tree – to support their local economy.

We’ll be following (and cheering!) Team ASUNM on The Whole HOG through their journey to Irvine, California. Next month, we’ll delve  deeper into some of the sustainable technologies Team ASUNM will showcase with SHADE – including a look out how our HOG tanks will be used.  We hope you’ll join us!

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

                                                Mill Valley Green Home

“To me it’s the story of place, either real or desired, that inspires the architecture. The context of the site, the environment – natural or man made – is the origin of the design evolution,” explains architect Geoff Butler of his design process.

mill valley green homeWe’re revisiting his Mill Valley Green Home one year after it’s lush, photo-filled debut in San Francisco Magazine, with more gorgeous pictures from the synonymously named web site.

Why is it beautiful? Geoff Butler didn’t have to look far for inspiration when designing the Mill Valley Green Home, a showpiece of sustainability located in his hometown. The home incorporates staples of California living – skylights, outdoor showers, easy transitions between indoor and outdoor space – with energy efficient details like radiant heating, a solar ready system, and an electric car charging outlet in the garage.

Why is it useful? The Mill Valley Green Home is leading by example with a cutting edge, three-tiered home design that includes the latest in luxury green features in California’s Bay Area. LEED Platinum certification is pending. And although in a rarefied price range, this luxury home incorporates green solutions that can be introduced on a smaller scale to the mid-range market.

mill valley hogsWhy is it green? “Bottom line energy savings, water reuse and drought tolerant landscaping,” are three eco-friendly features that Geoff Butler readily identifies in the Mill Valley Green Home. Nineteen Rainwater HOG provide 1,000 gallons of rain and grey water storage for landscape irrigation and toilet flush. Even in the construction of the home – aimed to show that green does not have compromise in quality or cost – more than 50% of the wood used was recycled from the original home.

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

February 2013: Rocky River Green Home

Rocky River Green Home Leads by Design

When it comes to homes, Beverly Maloney- Fischback, CEO, founder and publisher of Organic Spa Magazine, believes in “good bones” and green renovation.

Rocky River Green Home

A four-HOG modular system harvests the rain at the Rocky River Green Home.

She is incorporating the values of the leading American eco-lifestyle magazine that she helms into her Rocky River Green Home (RRGH) renovation. The home will be the first green energy-efficient home in the neighborhood, and the first renovated green home in the Rocky River region, located outside of Cleveland, Ohio.

She touts the benefits of rainwater harvesting in a recent RRGH blog update. Her new home will use four Rainwater HOG tanks, which will capture rainwater year-round to the tune of 1,200 gallons annually, for landscape irrigation.

Why did Bev choose HOG tanks?
• ease of installation
• space conserved with a vertical installation
• ready expansion potential of the HOG modular system

Not to mention that HOG plays well with others! Unused grey water from the home’s Brac Grey Water tank system will be fed into the HOGs for lawn and garden irrigation.

Solar heating joins rainwater harvesting and grey water recycle in an energy efficiency triple-threat at the RRGH. And, Beverly notes, she and her husband made sure to incorporate “a dose of spa wisdom and wellness into their design” with the second floor yoga room with sunset and lake views, and an “organic spa” themed master bath.

This CEO knows the power of leading by example. She explains, “What we are most proud of is that we will be an example on how to incorporate green building into an existing home and how to further the mission of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”

Owners of the Glencoe Green Home, profiled in August 2012, can relate.

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: 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.

The Whole HOG: November 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

As November comes to a close, we have lots to share and lots to be thankful for – including some great online press from AIArchitect, not to mention rain, rain and more rain. GreenBuild 2012 in San Francisco was certainly worth writing home about, and for that matter, sharing with our readers. Did we reconnect with you at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, or perhaps meet for the first time? Either way, welcome (back) to The Whole HOG!

Check out our B.U.G feature for our top five from Greenbuild including green roofs, green walls, big ass fans, and indoor/outdoor alternatives to traditional timber.

We’re partnering with old friends in Hawaii for a new sustainable housing development on Maui. Our tanks have been a vital piece of the ‘green’ puzzle for Armstrong Builders since they included HOGs in their 2010 Lai Opua development.

Speaking of green building in Hawaii, we recently came across Green by Design Hawaii’s post on an open house for the first NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) certified green home. What did we find? That’s right – a HOG tank industriously storing rainwater for garden irrigation. The Oahu home, rebuilt after a fire, is the first to meet the NAHB’s National Green Building Certification Program standards.

HOG CEO Simon Dominguez says, “Rainwater HOG is excited to be a part of helping advance sustainable building practices.”

November 2012: HOGs Wow Maui Homeowners

Rainwater HOG tanks to be included in Maui Housing Development

HOGs have already made a name for themselves in Hawaii. And the word is spreading. Through their affordable housing developments (such as the LEED-H Gold certified Lai Opua residential community) Armstrong Builders are one of the primary messengers on the islands.

Each home in the 2010 Lai Opua development has one HOG tank (and room for more).

Each home in the 2010 Lai Opua development has one HOG tank (and room for more).

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

In partnership with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Armstrong Builders is building a 26-home sustainable subdivision in Kula, Maui. Each home is installed with one Rainwater HOG tank near the carport, which homeowners can use for irrigating a garden or lawn or washing cars.

The inaugural residents of the 2012 Kula development inspect their Rainwater HOG tank.

The inaugural residents of the 2012 Kula development inspect their Rainwater HOG tank.


The first occupants moved into their new home this month on November 2, 2012.  Three to four new homes are being built each month. Other green features include solar photovoltaic panels, low flush toilets, EnergyStar appliances, and whole house fans to reduce the need for air conditioning.  Armstrong Builders expect the Kula development on Maui to be completed by July 2013.

“This house for me represents everything as a Hawaiian,” says Raenani, a Lai Opua homeowner, talking about the care and pride she saw in the construction of her home, and the partnership and support she received from Armstrong Builders. “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” she finishes, with a nod.