What is a Rain Shadow? and why do I need to know?

rain shadow

When designing roof gutters, or surface drainage for building sites, The rain shadow can make a big difference. Especially for a tall building.


The Plumbing Codes assume rain is coming down at an angle of 2:1.


That is 2 units vertical to 1 unit horizontal. (63.4 degrees).


So from the diagram on the left, you can see the effect of the shadow.rain shadow3

The area of the shadow is half the area of the vertical face of the building. (2:1remember).



But what if rain comes from the other direction?


From the diagram on the right, you can see that half the vertical face of the building has been added to the catchment area.


The catchment area is always measured on the horizontal plane. Because that’s how they measure rainfall when they talk about ‘mm’ or ‘inches’ of rain.  So to make all our hydraulic formulas work, we must also use this method if we want to use rainfall figures calculated by the local Weather Bureau.


Now consider the interesting case where we have a building on both sides. One side has the shadow, and the other has the added catchment. If the buildings were of equal height, the effects would cancel each other out. No matter which direction the rain came from. Even if the rain came down the middle.


Got your head around that one yet?


However if the rain came from all directions at once, we are in diabolical trouble, and our roof gutter design, or site storm water design would be the least of our worries.



  1. Ben Robinson says:

    Can you please help me with some roof design question currently sitting crt 4 plumbing and the teachers got us in a tail spin. I’m happy to fill you in more if you reply to this email

  2. Eros Cavallin says:

    Hi Ken, interested in hearing your thoughts regarding 50% 10m max height rule on highrise building vertical faces dropping into lower roofs/podium levels. Applying the requirements from the code, for a 300m high facade with a total width of say 200m we are only considering a vertical face surface area of 1000m2.

    • KenS says:

      Hi Eros,
      Yes that is correct.
      Presumably for a building higher than 10m, most of the rainfall seems to blow off vertical faces and not reach the podium slab.
      Whatever happens that is the current code requirements.

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