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Let It Pour: 8 Architectural Details to Harvest Rainwater

Rainwater harvesting and storage systems can be a home’s main water supply.

James Bartolacci James Bartolacci

The longstanding water crisis in California has turned our attention to structural features that can minimize a home’s impact on the environment — but this time, things might get a little wet. Rather than depending solely on a region’s public water supply, incorporating rainwater harvesting and collection systems can provide a supplemental source of water for drinking (the quality is often better than surface water), cleaning, irrigation and bathing.

For homes located in remote areas, or in times of drought, rainwater harvesting systems — including innovative roof pitches, gutters and water tanks — can form the main water supply, if enough rainwater is properly stored. Homes with rainwater harvesting systems often use slightly pitched roofs to filter rainwater into storm pipes, which feed into large cisterns underground for storage and later use.

The benefits of rainwater harvesting systems go beyond just use in the home, helping to reduce storm water runoff, erosion, and contamination of water surfaces with pesticides. Scroll through to see beautifully designed homes that collect rainwater for everyday uses, thereby reducing their impact on the environment.

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House in the Countryside by Herreros Arquitectos, Arta, Spain

An inverted roof not only gives this home a distinct crown, but it also collects rainwater and filters it to a cistern for storage.

rainwater gutter water harvesting roof

OutSide In House by Fernanda Vuilleumier Studio, Puerto Natales, Chile

This wooden home’s pitched roof functions like a wind sail to make air flow in one direction and capture rainwater for storage.

Shishiodoshi Houseby Avignon-Clouet Architecture, Rezé, France

To comply with local plans, an aluminum overhang collects rainwater, activating a Japanese-style fountain that filters water to a retention pool.

rainwater gutter water harvesting roof

Tucson Mountain Retreat by D U S T, Tucson, AZ

Rooted in the desert, where water is always scarce, the design incorporates a generous 30,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system with an advanced filtration system.

Cape Russell Retreat by Sanders Pace Architecture, Sharps Chapel, USA

A butterfly roof directs and delivers rainwater to a collection cistern located beside the home, while an internal charcoal filter and ultraviolet light treat the water for potable use.

rainwater gutter water harvesting roof

Cascading Creek House by Bercy Chen Studio LP, USA

The roof structure is configured to provide a natural basin for the collection of rainwater. The water, electricity, and heat that are harvested on the roof tie into an extensive climate conditioning system that utilizes water source heat pumps and radiant loops to supply both the heating and cooling for the residence.

rainwater gutter water harvesting roof

Hilltop House by Richard Cole Architecture, Australia

The Hilltop House is naturally ventilated, uses energy-efficient LED lighting and collects and recycles rainwater on the roof.

Eco-Sustainable Antony House by Djuric Tardio Architectes, Antony, France

This eco-friendly home’s recovery of rainwater is used to water the gardens and planters, allowing its homeowners to cultivate aromatic plants and gardens without over-consuming the public water supply.

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