Greetings from Sana’a. The RAINS (Rainwater Aggregation) team has been working very hard since the last blog update and we are proud to announce that we have recently completed a total of three sites and selected three more sites in the Old City, the most famous part of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Earlier this month I spoke to Najiyah Alwazir from the Global Urbanist blog about the project.
There were of course a few challenges along the way. From the outset of the RAINS (Rainwater Aggregation) project we anticipated the challenge that most rooftops in the Old City are not single, flat units. That is, Old City buildings usually have multiple rooftops that are relatively small in size and are staggered at varying, inconsistent heights.
A second challenge is that many Old City rooftops have multiple drainage holes that remove rainwater to all sides of a building. This challenge involves lots of piping and creativity as we need to figure out a way to connect all the drainage holes without harming the building’s historic integrity.
The third challenge involves dealing with rooftops that are traditionally made of dirt. These have to be cemented, and in two cases so far, almost completely redone.
To address all of these challenges, the RAINS project has created a sort of cascading waterfall effect with higher, smaller rooftops draining to lower, larger ones, and into piping located on one or two sides of the building. The piping is also painted an earthen color that corresponds to the color of the mud brick houses.
We are very pleased with the results so far and are looking forward on getting started on the next sites.
Additional Benefits of the RAINS Project
Hello again from the RAINS (Rainwater Aggregation) team. I am pleased to report that there have been some additional benefits for the city of Sana’a through the implementation of the RAINS project. Our second Old City site recently uncovered a traditional masonry well that has been out of use for more than 40 years. The plan for this Old City site is to return water to the well again using an overflow valve from the RAINS system storage tank once it is full. This will be the first RAINS site to support replenishing ground water supplies as they were traditionally collected.
Additional benefits of work in the Old City have included fixing rooftops that may have collapsed with inhabitants underneath them (with workers waterproofing and completing the rooftops for the RAINS system many of the busy top floor rooms have been left alone by inhabitants). Repairing and waterproofing the roofs will lend years, if not decades, of new life to these ancient structures.
Further, after almost two years of maintenance neglect (thanks to the political and economic crisis that engulfed Yemen throughout 2011), investments by the RAINS project have encouraged inhabitants to follow up with their own additional upgrades to their buildings. Every household in the Old City that the RAINS team has worked on has implemented some type of upgrade such as fixing traditional doors and whitewashing interiors.
These are small but important steps as many Old City inhabitants have extended families that live elsewhere in the capital and they could easily move away, as many have, leaving behind decaying buildings in this wonderful living city. In helping them to preserve their houses, we are also bringing back the pride that people, including young people, have in living in the Old City.