Grade II building meets sustainable technology: Innovative rainwater harvester installed in SOAS Senate House North Block building

2  Senate House North Block Refurbishment_rainwater harvester_Image 2_smallConstruction on Senate House North Block has begun in earnest with work on one of the most innovative features of the re-development, a rainwater harvester, signalling the start of the project.

Senate House has an iconic status as one of London’s major landmarks. The rainwater harvester will give the Grade II listed site even greater significance bringing sustainable technology into the historical building.

Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting rainwater in a large tank and channelling it for use elsewhere. A 14000 litre capacity tank has been lifted by crane over the side of Senate House into a space created by a 10 tonne excavator below the courtyard – which will eventually become the central feature of the building with its free-standing glass roof. This tank will collect rainwater from the glass roof, cleanse it using ultraviolet light before the water is re-directed to a tank situated on the 6th floor. Here it will provide a regular supply of water to the building’s toilets, and play a role in reducing the building’s carbon footprint.

Professor Trevor H J Marchand, Professor of Social Anthropology, has an interest in this type of technology and its origins. Professor Marchand said: “The fitting of a rainwater harvester as part of the refurbishment project for the Senate House North Block is welcome news indeed. This sets a strong precedent for the ways that sustainable technologies can be harmoniously integrated with London’s architectural heritage. It’s vital that we conserve our historic buildings, but perhaps even more importantly that we do so in ways that are environmentally responsible.”

This is a notable construction project as it is one of only a handful of times that a rainwater harvester has been retrofitted into a listed building, a fact the project team is extremely proud of. It also represents a major first step in the construction process at Senate House and, along with the glass roof, will be an important feature of a site that aims to seamlessly integrate state-of-art-facilities with traditional character.

Senate House North Block is scheduled to open in June 2016 to coincide with the start of the centenary celebrations, and the building will be a symbol of the exciting vision of the School’s future.