Waller, James Hardress de Warrenne (1884–1968), engineer and inventor, was born in Tasmania, tenth and youngest child of George Arthur Waller from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and Sarah Waller (née Atkinson). After attending school in Hobart, he served a two-year pupilage with his brother Richard FitzArthur Waller (1902–4). He then travelled to Ireland to study engineering at Queen's College Galway, where he graduated in 1909, and went on the UCC, where he studied under Professor Conel William (O'Donel) Long Alexander (qv), graduating M.Sc. and ME, following which he pursued his studies in New York for a time. He was commissioned to build a bridge across the River Lee and supervised the concrete bridge at Waterford (1911–13). He then went into partnership with the consulting engineer Alfred Dover Delap (1871–1943) as Delap and Waller, a partnership which lasted until Delap's death despite Waller's absence for over twelve years from Ireland. Joining the 65th field company of the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of war, he served during the Salonika campaign where he experimented with mud- and snow-covered tents. He was awarded the DSO (1916) for his military service and later an OBE (1918). He returned to Ireland to marry Beatrice Kinkead of Galway on 25 August 1917. In England he set up a company in Poole to build concrete battleships and houses: he completed the construction of one ship before hostilities ceased and built a housing estate, but he was soon bankrupted by competitors building in brick.
This failure led Waller to travel. He visited Iraq, where he saw the sixth-century palace of Ctesiphon with its immense inverted catenary arch. He was then engaged to supervise the construction of a railway in northern Spain. He returned to Ireland, where in the late 1920s he developed his system of building with lightweight concrete, which he named Nofrango. His first project was the pier at Foynes, Co. Limerick. In Dublin he applied his system to the construction of a multi-storey factory for Jacobs biscuit factory (the building latterly occupied by the National Archives), and to a housing development on Loreto Avenue in Rialto commissioned by the city's corporation, the cost of each house being £229; they were still inhabited at the turn of the twenty-first century.
Waller spent the second world war in London, working through the blitz on projects for the War Office, which after the war ended he developed for civil clients. He invented and patented what he called the ‘Ctesiphon system’ of building, in which regularly spaced timber catenary arches, clad in tightly stretched hessian, were covered in successive layers of cement, containing a waterproofing agent. The system found applications in building projects across the world. In the last decade of his working life his early interests in transport and employment were replaced by a preoccupation with famine. He built factories in Africa, housing in Australia, India, and Egypt, refugee accommodation in Jordan, grain storage in Cyprus. Two fellow engineers whom he had met in the 1920s built an airport, farms, and villas in Spain using his techniques and achieving high standards of construction. In Ireland Waller built farms and garages, most of which have been demolished, but his whiskey store at Locke's Distillery, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, still stands. This project may have led to his last commission, the Seagram Chivas distillery at Paisley, Scotland. Seagram bought out Waller's Ctesiphon patent; they never used it again, but the company paid Waller's pension, and then his widow's until her death.
Waller retired in 1953, going to live in Devon. He died 9 February 1968 survived by his wife (d. 1973) and two daughters. An album of his work was presented to the Irish Architectural Archive in 1995 by his daughter Beatrice Carfrae.