Rain Chains – Architectural design

One of the key principles of architectural design is building form, otherwise known as aesthetics or a buildings expression of beauty. Architectural designed properties often have bespoke features that allow for unique aesthetic value to be portrayed. During a recent building survey we noted several features of a property that fall into the ‘unique’ and ‘bespoke’ categories of architectural design. This article will aim to share some of these fascinating features with the reader assessing the functionality, design and maintenance of such elements.

One feature observed during the building survey that was particularly eye catching was the mechanism in place instead of the traditional rainwater downpipe. Instead of a downpipe there were numerous plastic rings attached to one another spanning from the roof to the ground. After investigating this feature, it was discovered that this downpipe alternative is known as a ‘rain chain’ (See Image 1).

Rain chains are an alternative to traditional closed gutter downpipes, instead of rainwater being enclosed inside a PVC or cast-iron downpipe rainwater visibly tracks down the chains or cups to the ground. This is an aesthetically pleasing feature and it is also reported that the rain chain can be soothing to listen to as they can provide different tones depending on the amount of water tracking down to the ground. Rain chains are proving themselves to be popular with environmentalists as it is said that they can reduce the impact of soil erosion through minimising the concentration of the stream of water that would normally channel down the downpipe.

Rain Chain
Image 1. Link chains attached to the gutter of the architectural design property.

There are two types of rain chain design available these being link chains or link cups. The link chains as seen in the property we surveyed tend to splash more than the cup style. As a result, considerations must be made when installing link chains, to avoid the effects of splash onto timbers and walkways. The copper rain chains seen on the property we surveyed are situated adjacent to brick wall faces and not timber faces (of which there were several), this indicates that the architect who designed the property may have considered the effects of splash from the rain chain when designing the property. There is some criticism of rain chains as a downpipe alternative as there are reports that the chains can struggle with larger amounts of water (See Link 1), hence why they are seemingly more popular across the continent in areas that see less precipitation for instance Spain and areas of Portugal. There are some reviews of the product labelling it as poor and insufficient for purpose when precipitation is high therefore future demand of the product in the UK is uncertain.


Rain Chain in thunderstorm.



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