Rainwater Storage Gutters – Sustainable Construction for Homes

A Water and Marine Sustainability Month Feature Article

Water collection from metal roof - Creative commons image credit Girjasharan

[tweetmeme http://www.URL.com] Mary Hardie of the School of Engineering, University of Western Sydney has published a well done paper on the use of rainwater storage gutters on homes.  The abstract to Mary’s paper:

A history of the implementation of a system of water storage roof gutters illustrates the difficulties which may be encountered in delivering more sustainable construction systems. Utilizing some rainwater at the site where it falls has considerable conservation benefit but it requires builders, roofers and plumbers to vary some of their standard practices. The observed change delivery process involves incorporation of trade knowledge, attention to detail, flexibility and the willingness of all parties including local building control authorities to try new options. Lessons learned have implications for the introduction of many kinds of environmentally driven improvements to domestic construction.

The introduction to this worthwhile paper reads:

Despite an increased tendency towards building high-rise apartments in some major cities, the Australian residential construction sector is still largely low-rise and medium or low density. Individual detached houses, townhouses and villas made up 85% of residences built in 2001. The typical housing unit is a three bedroom detached brick veneer with a tiled roof surrounded by lawn and exotic gardens. Such housing is largely being constructed on the periphery of existing cities and is a major consumer of land, water and energy resources. It also has significant adverse impact on the ecology of the surrounding areas. The attraction of such housing, however, remains strong in the Australian population and consequently it is necessary to find ways of minimizing the environmental impact of the traditional ways of building and living in the suburbs.

Researchers have reported on the need to be more efficient in the use of water in urban situations for some time. Extended droughts in the catchment areas of several major Australian cities in recent years have meant that a strong focus has fallen on the need to minimize the use of piped water in housing. There is also an increasing perception reported in the general news media and the broader research literature that climate change may be leading to generally drier climatic conditions especially in the south eastern portion of the continent. In response, state governments have introduced incentives for householders to collect roof water and use it to substitute for piped water in some situations. The New South Wales government‟s BASIX scheme requires a 30% reduction target in household water usage and gives credit to home owners for the installation of rainwater storage devices and water efficient fittings. While this is a welcome development has yet to impact greatly on the existing housing stock. It has long been standard practice in Australia to build houses with pitched roofs where rainwater is collected in roof gutters and passed through downpipes to a local stormwater system which also drains the road surfaces and other hard paved surfaces. The system then passes the stormwater on through pipes of increasing diameter till at some point it is discharged into a canal or waterway. Although this was intended to prevent soil erosion and particularly flooding, the actual result was often an increase in nuisance flooding when drains become blocked with litter and debris. Large areas of hard paved surfaces prevent stormwater naturally infiltrating the soil. When there is no blockage the stormwater picks up considerable kinetic energy through its swift passage down the pipe system and often results in erosion damage at the outlet point into a natural waterway. As a consequence of these effects, modern urban stormwater design seeks to slow down the passage of water through the system by such means as detention ponds, rock baffles and restoring streamside vegetation. In Australia, due to rainfall variability and to state government incentive schemes, there has been a significant and accelerating trend towards including rainwater collection devices in both old and new suburban areas. The practice of using rainwater to substitute for piped water supply for some purposes has also been adopted in several parts of the world and in varying climatic conditions. A complimentary approach to these efforts has been the innovation of „roof storage gutters‟ as rainwater tanks to reduce the input into the stormwater system and replace some of the potable water that is currently used for secondary purposes. Toilet flushing and garden watering do not require drinking quality water though it has been standard practice to waste potable water in this way. Storage gutters replace the use of high quality potable water with rainwater for these secondary purposes. As the gutter is in fact the tank there is no need for large, visually obtrusive rainwater tanks. The drive to improve environmental performance is seen as one of the major drivers of innovation in the construction industry. The storyline of the implementation of roof storage gutters has implications for many apparently small modifications of construction practice for sustainability improvements which lead in fact to both downstream and upstream changes in standard practice.

Read the full article in PDF format by clicking here.

Citation: Hardie, M. Rainwater Storage Gutters for Houses. Sustainability 2010, 2, 266-279.

One Response to “Rainwater Storage Gutters – Sustainable Construction for Homes”
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John McCormack , Professor Paul. Professor Paul said: #Rainwater Storage Gutters – Sustainable #Construction For Homes http://bit.ly/9GzZ1X #Water #Sustainability #Green […]

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