Necessity is the Mother of Invention

September 6, 2012 |

by Jamie Manser

Randy Young is on to something – a sustainable, non-toxic, off-the-gird, design savvy something.

Young’s patent-pending rain harvesting system, Water in the Walls, was imagined three years ago while researching the essentials needed for living off-the-grid. “I couldn’t find a water harvesting system that would last well or be functional long term,” Young explained.

As he did more research, Young learned that many home owner associations do not allow metal or plastic rain harvesting systems for aesthetic reasons. For Young, plastic harvesting tanks weren’t even a viable option.

“In the desert, plastics have a short life span, and I have petroleum toxicity, so I am hyper aware of petroleum in products.” Young explained that he was a master mechanic for seven years at a car dealership. One day, his kidneys shut down due to petroleum toxicity, landing him in the hospital and forcing him to switch his career path.

Young is Zen about what happened: “It’s all created my evolution.” And it is an interesting journey the Tucsonan has taken. Young, a sculptor and metal worker, went on to establish the Sculpture Resource Center at 640 N. Stone Ave. “That was due to not having access to equipment,” the artist elucidated.

Currently, Young gets paid to ride his bike and hike as a guide for Southwest Trekking while he gets Water in the Walls up and running. He’s off to a good start.

This April, Water in the Walls won the Judges’ Choice Award at the 2012 SAHBA Home & Garden Show. Young also reported that the system had a great response from water industry and government planning professionals at the March 2012 Arid LID (Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development in Arid Environments) Conference.

His environmentally solid concept, with gorgeous options for discerning home owners, began taking shape in earnest two years ago when Young said he started working with a CAD artist, and approaching engineers and investors.

Young’s appreciation was palpable when he stated: “Last summer, an investor stepped in to help pay for a patent lawyer and engineering fees.”

While Young is not an engineer, he attributes his ability to re-imagine common objects to his versatility across mechanical and artistic platforms. Young also credits writings by David A. Bainbridge, about the use of water inside walls for passive heating and cooling, as an inspiration.

“Water has three times the mass of stone or concrete,” Young elucidated. “With concrete and water together, there is a 12 hour delay on temperature change.” He said this can help keep an outdoor space cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, depending on how the walls are set up on a property.

While the system is still in the prototype phase, the designs are fully approved by Pima County. Young is building the molds for the modular system himself, which he said allows for a wide range of design options. “Our real bulletproof walls look like a stuccoed adobe or straw bale wall when completed.”

Young makes it clear that the additional components – plumbing, downspouts, and filtration systems – are all on the market. “We’re not reinventing the wheel; we’re just putting a tire on it.”

Besides the obvious benefits of harvesting rain in an arid land, such as supporting gardens and landscapes, this system allows some freedom from municipal water dependency which can come in handy with unforeseen emergencies. Although Young jokingly references a zombie apocalypse in his brochures; anyone who has experienced natural disasters understands the importance of having access to clean water in times of crisis.

It certainly is a timely endeavor for the inventor as water tables fall and global populations are rising. For the customer, it not only enables peace of mind but also comes with the added benefit of rebates from Tucson Water.

“It’s going to take a lot of small solutions,” Young added. “I look forward to a time when water harvesting is just something that you do.”

Visit, email or call 940-3177 for more details. Interested in supporting the project? Visit for more details. Also check out Brad Lancaster’s website,, for more information on water harvesting.

Tucson Water customers can apply for rebates up to $2,000 for capturing and storing rainwater after attending a free workshop and creating a harvesting plan. More details on the program are available online or by calling 791-4331.

Category: Community