Chapter 9. Sustainable Architecture for Water in Roman Spain (Hispania)


Marta López-Gorria
Escuela Politécnica Superior, Universidad San Pablo-CEU, CEU Universities, Urbanización Montepríncipe, Alcorcón, Madrid, Spain

Part of the book: Sustainable and Healthy Building Environments


The Roman Empire promoted the proliferation and development of the cities as an ideal administration unit, which would generate a concentration of the population. Along with its profits, it introduced important hygienic and environmental issues which they largely tried to correct or, at least, to alleviate. In order to choose the location of a new city, numerous factors were considered. A key one was the existence of high-quality water. The abundant and continuous supply, a basic service of health and hygiene, was identified as a sign of identity of the Romanization expressed in architecture. The collection of water was produced through urban wells that allowed the access to the subterranean aquifers, or cisterns and deposits that gathered the rainwater from large private dwellings as well as from public monumental buildings (as were the porticoed areas of the forums). The rainwater could be used for human consumption or to assist the cleaning of the drain channels, therefore achieving health benefits. However, when the urban growth required a larger hydrological contribution, springs or streams were searched far away from the city to ensure non-polluted water, driven by aqueducts to them. An elaborated distribution system for the water allowed the supply to public fountains, evenly allocated throughout the city, and to public bathrooms and latrines, basic hygienic elements, and even the supply to private individuals who could afford the fees. Finally, a broad sewage system allowed the needed evacuation of the hydric waste. Everything was legally regulated in order to control the quality of the water, to ensure its supply, and the maintenance of the infrastructures and buildings. To achieve all of these, the knowledge of engineering and architecture the Romans possessed was employed, as well as their building techniques, quite often focused on an optimisation of resources and efforts, using native materials. However, on some occasions, they succeeded in developing monumental architecture in the construction of some nymphaea and aqueducts according to the importance given to water in the Roman world. This showed the concern that they had at this time for a certain level of hygiene which, with all its defects, achieved a progress that wouldn’t return until many centuries later.

Keywords: Roman construction, Roman aqueducts, water, Roman constructions, sustainable architecture, sewage system


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