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System Rethinks Walls, Water Tanks

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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An Arizona master auto mechanic says he has developed a concrete wall system that holds water.

Randy Young, of Tucson, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund prototypes of his thermal mass invention.

Walls 2.0 “rethinks the wall” as a rainwater storage tank system that is adapted to architectural design.

Concrete walls that are filled with water feature excellent thermal qualities, enabling passive heating and cooling for the structure, the inventor said.


Randy Young, of Tucson, decribes his idea for Walls 2.0 in this video.

Typical water storage tanks require internal coatings that must be reapplied regularly, and plastic and steel tanks have a limited service life, according to the campaign description.

Walls 2.0 provides a more “sustainable solution,” using technology that has been around more than 40 years, Young says.

The walls are built using Krystol Internal Membrane, a technology that when added to liquid concrete builds crystals in the concrete pores, making it fully dense and waterproof.

Young says his previous versions of the modular system were too costly and did not perform as planned. This version resolves those issues, he says.

Installing Prototypes, Backers

With the funds raised, Young plans to install prototypes of his system at the Watershed Management Group’s headquarters in Tucson. He has already obtained approval for construction via the city's building department.

WMG provides community-based workshops, offers certifications, and advocates for water and building policies and regulations.

Walls 2.0
Randy Young / Kickstarter

Previous versions of the water-in-the-walls storage system were too expensive and did not function properly, according to the Kickstarter description.

Young says that he could probably obtain private funding for the patent-pending system, but that he opted for a crowdsourcing campaign so as not to sacrifice his mission. He wants to donate 20 percent of all profits to help provide access to clean drinking water to people around the world.

The Kickstarter campaign for Walls 2.0 ends Nov. 14. As of Monday (Oct. 20), only $1,317 of the $60,000 goal had been reached.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Building Envelope; Concrete; Design; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; North America

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/21/2014, 8:54 AM)

A few major hurdles here. 1) Concrete cracks. I'm dubious of any admixture offering perfect waterproofing every time - even the linings guys often have issues getting a perfect job every time. When it cracks, you have a pretty good chance of thousands of gallons of water ending up in your building, with no valve you can cut off. 2) If you actually use the water, you lose your thermal mass. If you want to keep the thermal mass, you can't use the water. Two of the major selling points are in fundamental opposition. 3) I didn't get any hint of a business plan or projected cost model. How is this going to compete in the market? A VC is a lot more likely to blow you off for that failure than dedicating a percentage of profits to charitable works. Conceptually, it's a neat idea and it might work - but it sounds like they haven't even made a working prototype yet, just some failed prototypes. Additionally, there are several types of standalone "water wall" or "slimline" tanks with an elongated footprint, designed to be set up just outside an exterior wall and would provide a lot of the same benefits touted by this idea while bypassing most of the drawbacks, at a lower cost and easy to retrofit to existing buildings.

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (10/21/2014, 12:53 PM)

I would add that usually, the idea is to keep water out of a wall. What does it mean: "Concrete walls that are filled with water feature excellent thermal qualities"? Water is an excellent heat conductor (why it is used in heating and cooling systems, automobile radiators); most exterior walls are designed to limit heat transfer. If the intent is to build a mass wall, concrete alone can do that quite well. I am not sure what the applications would be, even if they managed to work out the not so insignificant problems already listed above.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/27/2014, 5:17 PM)

Good point, Andrew. I hadn't thought about the very high heat conductance: I was distracted by the much higher heat capacity than concrete. I expect the conductance would reduce the effectiveness as a thermal mass by a significant margin.

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