As I type this, new york is getting pounded by rain, a welcome bit of moisture in a summer when the Northeast and the rest of the country are dry. But as I watch the rain hit the empty asphalt lot out my rear window, I can’t help but think that more could be done with the rain rather than it being sent directly into storm sewers. Most flat roofs do exactly the exact same as the empty bunch, funneling the water through gutters and downspouts toward a combined sewer under the road. Regrettably, in its way into the water treatment plant, that water tends to float during rain events like this, leading to this “combined sewer overflow” being ejected to the rivers and bays. It is a disgusting occurrence which may be remedied by green roofs, rainwater harvesting and other means.

Design characteristics that do something together with the increasingly valuable resource of water dropping from the sky are appropriate to any context, be it a big town, a suburb or a rural place. Here are a few suggestions for collecting and using rainwater from roofs.

Feldman Architecture, Inc..

1 important consideration in rainwater harvesting would be the layout of the roof. Here is a house with a large overhang which provides more surface area for rainwater collection. If the rain is heavy enough, that additional place makes a huge difference. Notice the cisterns on the far right side of the photo.

Feldman Architecture, Inc..

A closer look in the cisterns illustrates the layout and positioning of the objects are important. These are substantial metal cisterns (I think there might even be yet another hiding behind the set) which are placed in the far end of the house, down a slight slope. The positioning reduces their visual effect.


This house has small cisterns in concrete which actually help specify an outdoor space. These sustainable features are prominent, expressing the operator’s and the architect’s efforts. Notice the scupper about the low roof feeding the cisterns.

B O design studio

This house does not reveal its cistern in the front of the house, however, the roof profiles operate toward feeding it. The pitched roof on the right sloping toward the flat roof on the left indicates that something might be happening with rainwater collection.

B O design studio, pllc

A view in the rear of the house reveals that to be the case. The bright reddish cylinder on the right is fed by pipes in the roof above.

B O design studio

Bear in mind the front door of the house? Bright red, exactly enjoy the cistern, which the owners bring focus on but increase above its inherent industrial temperament.

Exteriorscapes llc

But of course not everybody who desires rainwater harvesting desires above-grade cisterns. These below-grade cisterns will be capped by a yard. While they are fitting for a suburban or rural site, the significant amount of excavation needed is a downside. As well, any future maintenance will need ripping up the yard. One needs to balance these various concerns when considering rainwater collection.

Gardner Architects LLC

This house near Annapolis, Maryland, boasts of water conservation and conservation through collection and reuse of rain, as well as “a ‘living coastline’ for breeding of aquatic lifestyle,” according to Gardner Mohr Architects’ description. Further, the landscape is designed to get “the infiltration of 100 percent of their storm water on site.” From that perspective it’s clear how the layout has affected each, by the butterfly roof shape into the sloped landscape and the rocky coastline.

Gardner Architects LLC

The butterfly roof funnels water to a single end, capturing the rain with a custom scupper along with a downspout.

Feldman Architecture, Inc..

I can’t help but end this story with at least one green roof, and the Mill Valley Cabins near San Francisco are some of the most outstanding ones on . The collection of green roofs allow the cabins merge into the dense woods context.

A close-up shows that the terracing allows for entry to the roofs. Sedum roofs don’t require gardening help like this, but it’s important to consider that green roofs impede rain runoff while at the same time insulating interior spaces and adding beauty to the “fifth facade”; they also offer the opportunity for gardening and even urban farming.

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