Soap It Up! Hand Washing Design Challenge

WASH Unitedis launching a new open design challenge—”to design a handwashing station for a rural Indian household that is attractive, acceptable and marketable.”  5 winners will be chosen to have their designs prototyped and tested with users all over India as part of “The Great WASH Yatra—a traveling festival with a goal to educate and excite communities on how to improve the quality of their lives and tackle sanitation, both practically and meaningfully.”

The challenge is in partnership with Quicksand Design, IDEO, Hattery Labs, Südfeuer and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP).  Details follow (click to enlarge, and for better quality):

Project Sammaan Launches: Better Sanitation in Indian Slums

Project Samman is...

Quicksand Design and partners have begun work on Project Sammaan, redesigning public sanitation facilities in urban slums in India.  The new work began earlier this year, following their heavy design research phase in 2010–2011, funded by the Gates Foundation and nicknamed “The Potty Project” (previously covered on BoP Designer).  Partners include the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) and the city governments of two large cities in India, with continued support from the Gates Foundation.

The objective of this project is to rethink the current models of sanitation facilities and design a new programmatic infrastructure and physical structure that instills a sense of dignity while addressing issues affecting sanitation practices in India.

We feel that sharing our successes, and hurdles, is vital to the project to open channels of dialogue and instill a sense of collaboration in such a critical field.

Quicksand has launched a blog and twitter account (@ProjectSammaan) specific to the project, chronicling the progress and thoughts behind it along the way.  It looks like it’ll be a great resource and insightful window into the process that will be entertaining and informative to designers, design-thinkers and sanitation proponents alike.  Your ongoing input is invited.  Visit the Project Sammaan blog >>

In addition, Quicksand and partners have launched an “Open Innovation Challenge” to the public in three categories:

  • Architectural Design (of the facilities)
  • Hand-Washing Design (of the ideal soap-dispensing system)
  • Waste Management Design (within the facility)

See full details here, where you can download briefs to each of the three challenges.

(all images from Project Sammaan)

An Argument for Ecological Sanitation — “Ecosan”

Ever wonder about the efficiency of our “modern” toilet and water-based sewage systems, or if they even really make sense? Dr. Lucas Dengel shares with us the argument for Ecological Sanitation, or “Ecosan,” from his practice and perspective in Tamil Nadu, India. Ecosan is a universal concept that can (should) be considered everywhere, with practices adapted to local needs and conditions. The transition to a better way of separating, treating and actually gaining benefit from our sewage may be easier said than done, especially in cities—as most common ecosan practices rely on outhouses and composting containers, not conveyance through large, multistory buildings. But it’s time to start shifting our thinking. There’s a real need for healthy sanitation worldwide, and there’s a lot to gain from waste.

The following is reprinted from a document written by Dr. Dengel in January 2011, with minimal edits. Dr. Dengel is a medical doctor who became interested in the prevention of disease, rather than just treatment, early in his career in India. Now an organic farmer and an expert in ecosan, he champions its adoption, along with the use of effective microorganisms (EM) in treating sewage and waste—both for the sake of public health and for their many other benefits. Dr. Dengel lives and works in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India. 

Dr Dengel with UnBox Fellows

Dr. Lucas Dengel talks ecosan with UnBox Fellows in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India - Jan 2012

Ecosan – ecological sanitation

Why should there be a need for an alternative to flush sanitation?

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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.