The evolution of gutters: a reflection of our feelings towards functional design

By Paul

Gutters are functional. They collect water from the roof of a building and transport it away, to a designated place. But how necessary are they? The way their design has evolved is an interesting reflection of how our feelings towards water and function have changed over the years, including areas such as sustainability.

The Georgians and Victorians didn’t want to see their gutters at all. Often, they built a parapet to hide the edge of the roof, extending the wall towards the sky to give a feeling of extra height. The water was then dealt with internally.

Post-war, function took over from aesthetics and rainwater started to be channelled into the visible gutters that still adorn many buildings. These aren’t pretty and with the invention of UPVC, they became even uglier.

Today, many architects are again looking to do away with unsightly gutters. We are back to hiding gutters in the depth of wall build ups, channelling water away secretly. In our Loxley Stables development, just outside Tring in Hertfordshire, you would be hard pressed to spot the guttering. Similarly, Hidden House in Suffolk has gutters secreted behind the cladding.

Sustainability is a greater concern today and guttering is increasingly an element of creating a sustainable dwelling. Rainwater collection is extremely important in areas that experience draught; designers are finding ways to direct water from gutters straight to storage tanks.

We are designing one of our projects, a highly sustainable single-storey dwelling, with no guttering at all. Instead of having guttering on the eaves of the roof, long eaves will be supported by exposed rafters, with water falling onto purposely located planting areas.

In this case, the so called ‘gutters’, or rainwater distribution, will be essentially located below ground with a series of sub-surface French perimeter drains – small trenches filled with stones that contain a perforated pipe to redirect surface water and groundwater away from the building. The plants sit alongside to absorb the water they need. Though it sounds complex, this is a simple solution to an age-old problem.

Tags: Design

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