Drops roof and rainwater reuse

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How to effectively take advantage of the rain water and the dew that falls at dawn? The question was asked four years ago by the architect Elisabet González, when she saw the cars impregnated by the drops of fallen dew at dawn on her way to the university

This was the germ of Drops Roof, an idea that González has managed to carry out with effort and tenacity. The purpose of this sustainable project is to help, in some way, to alleviate the problem of the lack of drinking water in the world. How? By means of a roof integrated in buildings that has a triple purpose:

  • To collect the night dew
  • To collect the rainwater
  • To distil all of the water using solar energy

Its operation is simple. A series of one square metre plates placed on the outside of the building are responsible for retaining the water. More or less plates can be added, depending on the needs of the user. A year after launching her idea, Elisabet González decided to make a real study in Es Mercadal (Menorca). The results were spectacular. Each of these plates annually retained up to 6.12 litres / m2 per day. In other words, an amount of 2,236 litres per year. Sixteen plates per person are enough to give 100 litres of water per day.

González calculates that in four years the initial investment has already been recovered, because the savings are spectacular. This is explained by the fact that the plate mechanism works 24 hours a day, which completely covers the water requirements of a house both for domestic use and for drinking. “A closed cycle is created in which, as the grey and black waters of the house can be distilled again, they are cleaned again. And the water lost from the system is recovered by collecting rain and dew,” explains the inventor of the Drops Roof system.

Water for all

This project is especially useful for homes far from urbanised areas and which need an external water tank supply to cover their needs. In Spain, around 29,000 homes are in this situation. It should also be borne in mind that drinking water is an increasingly precious resource. Drought and desertification are two of the most serious environmental threats to the planet due to climate change, and Spain is one of the EU countries that can suffer most from its effects.

“I feel the need to do my bit and help solve this problem,” says Gonzalez. Far from throwing in the towel, the young woman is optimistic about the course of this business venture, and even more so seeing how global warming is increasing year after year and the droughts are becoming more severe in many areas of the world.

“We offer users self-sufficiency and self-management, and at the same time we bring economic and water savings by promoting responsible consumption,” explains González. Now, the most imminent objective of this start-up is to launch the product on a large scale. The sensations are good. Several investors have shown interest and have injected private capital to build a real-scale model. Once this prototype is ready, Elisabet González will continue with funding rounds to start commercializing Drops Roof in Spain. The aim is to take the international leap in 2020.

A promising future

The business plan estimates that, within three years, Drops Roof could be installed in 63 homes, with a total of 2,520 plates. The income model is based on the sale, installation and annual maintenance service for each water collector plate, without forgetting the solidarity and the environmental commitment, since 2% of the profits made in the early years will go to the help the water supply in underdeveloped countries.

For the moment, there are already more than 20 clients interested in installing Drops Roof in Spain. There is also an NGO that wants to meet González to see how prefabricated buildings in underdeveloped countries can be self-sufficient in their water supply.

Despite the still short experience with the product, Drops Roof has already achieved some recognition in the sector. With this project, Gonzalez not only got a scholarship for her Master’s degree, but last year, she won the University of Barcelona Santander Explorer entrepreneurship award. This award allowed the young architect to travel to Silicon Valley with 51 other young entrepreneurs on this programme promoted by Santander Bank through Santander Universities.

Promoting young talent, promoting innovative ideas and supporting entrepreneurial spirit are the three main objectives of the Santander Explorer programme. On her trip to the USA, Elisabet González saw first-hand that, despite the difficulties, a good project can always move forward.

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