SOAS University of London

Construction at Senate House North Block begins with installation of the innovative rainwater harvester

5 December 2014

Construction 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 a project.

Senate House has an iconic status as one of London’s best known landmarks, and the rainwater harvester will give the Grade II listed site even greater significance by combining the building’s period features with a sustainable technology that has been used through the ages.

Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting rainwater in a large tank and channelling it for use elsewhere. Earlier this week, a 10 tonne excavator was lowered by a crane into the courtyard at Senate House. The excavator is currently digging a sub-basement where a 14000 litre capacity tank will eventually be located below what will eventually become the central feature of the building - the glass covered courtyard. 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.

Rainwater harvester
The 10 tonne excavator clearing the way to set up the digging of a sub-basement where a 14000 litre capacity tank will eventually be located.

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.