David Hertz and Skywater - Water from Air
As an architect and environmentalist, Venice-resident David Hertz is known for repurposing materials. He has used the wing of a 747 as the roof of a house and crushed vinyl albums as flooring at a record label's office, so it should come as no surprise that this environmentally-focused architect has found a new way to turn something we take for granted into something we desperately need. David Hertz is turning air into water. Read more about David and his work with Skywater in the interview below.
How did you find out about Skywater?
A client of mine told me about the Skywater technology that a friend of his had invented. He asked me to evaluate the technology as it had not yet been used in California. To me, like alchemy and too good to be true. To make water from air efficiently? I was intrigued and very anxious to try it. I started with a small office cooler sized SkyWater machine to supply our office of about 10 people and subsequently installed a unit that makes about 150 gallons of drinking water per day from the air. In California, we have not yet been able to achieve water self reliance because we are reaching the limits of our conservation efforts. We cannot collect or store enough stormwater to meet our needs, while we face unprecedented water scarcity and water quality issues. The idea of being able to generate point of use water on site is a very compelling solution and offers an alternative to the more energy intensive method of transporting water long distances through an aging infrastructure.
How does it work?
The technology uses a patented process called Adiabatic Distillation, which uses the art of refrigeration to condense the moisture in air to make pure water. If one thinks about an air conditioner and how it makes condensation, this is similar. In simple terms, it's like a reverse air conditioner in that its primary function is to only make water efficiently, instead of making cooling air. It's fascinating that on our planet, less than 1.5% of the water is fresh. As we usurp our aquifers and surface water, we will need many strategies, including the ability to harvest water from the sky. It turns out that especially in our coastal communities, all the evaporation from the ocean is replenished in the atmosphere on a weekly basis as it blows over the city with prevailing breezes, making it infinitely renewable. In fact there is more atmospheric water in the air at any given time than all the rivers on Earth. So even if every building had one it would not affect the climate.
How does Skywater fit with your other work repurposing materials?
I started out as an environmentalist and had to rationalize my place in the world as an architect trying to lessen the impacts of the built environment on the natural environment. I have used repurposing and radical re-use as a strategy for reducing the use of raw materials by reusing what we already have instead of extracting more primary raw materials. A good example is my 747 Wing House in Malibu, which uses the wings of a decommissioned 747 as the floating roofs of a house. Having been successful for over the last three decades as an architect working to move buildings beyond sustainability toward a restorative and regenerative architecture that gives back more than it takes, we have not been able to find solutions for water generation that move beyond collection until now. My interest in what we Take, Make and Waste has led me to a fascination with water as the most important limited resource we have.
How are you using your Skywater system to benefit the community, and how would you like to see Skywater used in Venice in the future?
I have been using solar energy to create over 100 gallons of fresh water per day, which is more than we personally need. As a result, we have been giving it away to the community for free. My studio is on Market Street near Ocean Front Walk, where there is a high percentage of the homeless population with limited access to clean water, which is a fundamental human right. I have been amazed by the popularity, respectfulness and self governance surrounding the public's use of what has been fondly called the "Wall of Water." I came up with the concept of providing SkyWater to the community by installing a bottle filling station in the alley on Horizon Court and incorporating it into a large mural by an LA street artist.
Additionally, we have been providing several hundred gallons per week to the local non profit, Community Healing Gardens, which has over 83 farm boxes on the parkways throughout Venice, made legal by Mike Bonin's ordinance permitting that. Considering California's permanent drought, it makes the most sense to water all these boxes with water locally made from air. Community Healing Gardens employs youth from Venice based S.P.Y. (Safe Place For Youth), which provides job opportunities to kids aged out of the foster care system. CHG now employees two full time formerly homeless teens to pick up the Skywater from my studio twice a week and hydrate the Urban Farm boxes in Venice.
My wife, Laura Doss Hertz and I started Skysource.org as a public benefit company to not only provide our community with Atmospheric Water, but to invite them to become water self reliant with their own machines. We are about to install a SkyWater machine combined with Aeroponic Food towers to the Venice Open Temple at the Electric Lodge and have been engaged with the restaurant, Plant Food and Wine on Abbot Kinney, which will become the first restaurant in the world to not only grow produce for its restaurant onsite using Skywater, but to also serve it to its customers.
In addition to other projects proposed in Venice and Los Angeles, including a Skysource billboards using art and atmospheric water generators to provide water at its base, we are working on alternative energy, water harvesting and food production for projects through our " Precipitating Change initiative" with Go-water.org in Haiti and Africa with intentions of providing a hyper local response to water self reliance world wide.
To learn more, visit Skysource.org. You can also watch the short film on what David Hertz is doing in Venice, made by local Venice film makers Nicol Ragland and Matt Eppedio, which was recently selected as a finalist in a national film challenge by the American Institute of Architects.