Quicksand – The Potty Project

Understanding user experience of sanitation for the urban poor

The following is paraphrased from The Potty Project’s brief, April 1 2011, available for download (PDF, 1.1 MB).

The Potty Project is a design research initiative by Quicksand Design Studio, a design and innovation firm based in Delhi, India.  Commissioned by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “the Potty Project’s central aim is to create relevant information on sanitation and hygiene to enable appropriate innovations for design, development and delivery of sanitation infrastructure and services targeted at urban slums.”

The main purpose of the research was to study the behaviors of residents of urban slums in order to design better sanitation facilities.  Issues examined include:

  • daily sanitation routines
  • preferences for defecation in the open
    vs. inside a toilet facility
  • gender & age behaviors and
    special considerations
  • privacy
  • location
  • care-taking of toilet infrastructure
  • social and cultural taboos
  • shared ownership vs. private sanitation
  • community cohesion
  • transience
  • social benefits

The Potty Project was conducted over ten months – between May 2010 and March 2011 – in five cities to illustrate the diverse sanitation experiences in India. Those cities are Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Pune and Mumbai.  “Taking account of factors such as regional cultural differences, varied population demographics, diverse local community dynamics, and different types of sanitation facilities, the study investigates how a large number of variables influence user experiences of sanitation.”

Design and development efforts need to focus on toilet features that improve the user’s experience throughout the journey through the space, while recognizing that users may include women, children and the aged. Architects must also keep in mind a user’s perception of barriers of use of a toilet.

Quicksand has been commissioned for a follow-up by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to put these findings into practice, designing better sanitation solutions for urban slums in India.  Can’t wait to see what they start rolling out.

More information:

>>  Browse The Potty Project’s website for detailed findings – www.pottyproject.in
>>  Download the Project Brief here (PDF, 1.1 MB)
>>  Browse @thepottyproject’s twitter activity during its research period

Thanks to Babitha George of Quicksand for discussing the project and sharing the project brief.