Sally Dominguez is an architect, a designer, and an inventor of products she thinks will help make the world more eco-friendly. Now living in Northern California, she started out designing urban housing in Australia, then launched a line of children’s furniture including the multi-award- winning NEST Highchair.
When she couldn’t find a rainwater tank to fit under her patio during a drought, she came up with the Rainwater HOG, a slim and portable container that holds 51 gallons. It can be used for irrigation, emergency drinking water, and greywater recycling. Her newest invention is the HOGzilla that she’s working on with her husband, Simon. It will hold 450 gallons.
As well as writing on sustainability and cars, she is a judge on “The New Inventors,” an Australian television show.
I was fascinated by this new HOG tank and in Sally’s tenacity to create one. I wanted to know more so I asked Sally:
THE WOMEN’S EYE: What is it about being an inventor that’s so fulfilling to you?
SALLY: I never set out intentionally to be an inventor but I have a constant curiosity about why things are the way they are. I am always seeing unconventional solutions to everyday problems. It is fun to sketch out the possibilities, and to apply what I’m constantly learning about new materials’ technologies, new advances in biomimicry, and new ways of making things. The excitement and the ability to change ways people live inspires me.
EYE: What was your first invention? Did this passion start when you were a child?
SALLY: When I was in fifth grade, I used apple crates to create a waterproof, two story building on a farm in rural Australia. The farm owner was Associate Professor of Architecture Jennifer Taylor and she told me I would be a great architect. That was the first moment that I thought that perhaps designing was my thing. Before that I just assumed I would be a musical actress or an artist.
EYE: Is there anything unique to being a woman in this line of work?
SALLY: A lot of inventing is being open to ideas and possibilities and I sometimes feel that women are more capable of this than men. In manufacturing it is important to be able to admit that you have lots to learn, so that the experts will share with you their take on the best ways to do things. Again, I think women are often more humble and more able to admit ignorance than men. Women are terrific multi-taskers which is essential when you are working on many fronts-and running a family-like I am!
EYE: The Rainwater HOG is a wonderful idea. Why was saving rainwater so important to you?
SALLY: A rainwater tank is just one of the tools we use to create sustainable buildings and I was unhappy back in 2003 that this important part of living sustainably was not more available to suburban and city dwellers. Many people simply cannot afford the space that a large cistern takes up. Often they have smaller roofs and thus only need small capacity tanks, but they are still able to make significant reductions to their city water use by harvesting their rainwater. If every home used rainwater to flush toilets and irrigate gardens, reducing their city water use by more than 50%, we are talking about massive city water savings. Rainwater is so easy to use. It is simply crazy that every house does not practice rainwater harvesting and reuse.
EYE: How difficult is it to persuade people of the necessity of the HOG?
SALLY: The hardest people to convince are the traditional rural rainwater tank guys who reckon that the HOG is not big enough. I tell them that we have installations holding over 5,000 gallons and that the HOG is about multiples and modularity, but they don’t want to hear it. For some people a big, round steel tank is it. But once homeowners own or builders build or architects design with HOG, they are hooked.
EYE: You’re working on a larger HOGzilla, a 450 gallon tank. How can that affect communities?
SALLY: I want to offer a larger volume solution with the same modular flexibility and design for reuse that HOG has. HOGzilla has some unique properties that will allow it to replace other structural components of building which means we will be doing less with more.
My goal is always to reduce, and so to have a tank that will also function as a wall or as a floor will mean that communities can cut their consumption of building materials and store rainwater at the same time. It’s all upside.
EYE: What are some of your dream inventions?
SALLY: When I am judging on “The New Inventors” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV), I always tell the inventors that they should be looking at recycled or biodegradable materials as a default position. Even if I design more furniture or a consumer product (I am currently working on both), they will have end of life reusability and recycled content as their bottom line. But I am also working on a solar irrigation system for developing countries and a rollout lightweight green roof.
EYE: What is it about the writing of Dr. Seuss that so inspires you? What’s your favorite saying or book?
SALLY: I love “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” as pure upbeat literature, and I love “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew”-in particular the multi-tasking line “I’ll look out for trouble in front and back sections by rolling my eyeballs in different directions.” In short, he has a multifarious perspective which is essential to architecture and to design. Dr. Seuss is super positive and always open to possibilities. It is a great philosophy for life!
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Questions to ponder: What are you doing to conserve rainwater? Would you use the Rainwater HOG?