A Community-Driven Design Process for Household Toilets in Shada

Written by our friends at re.source – a start-up team based out of Stanford University, funded by a Grand Challenges Explorations Phase 1 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The re.source team is partnering with SOIL to help design an improved household EcoSan toilet and a social business model for providing household sanitation in urban slums. See other blog posts by the re.source team here.

Even as we’re looking to start piloting our collection service with one of our existing designs, we’re always working to design a better toilet.  To that end, Sebastien loaded a few models, prototypes, and concepts into the truck with SOIL’s Erinold Frederic, and went to consult with the experts: our household toilet users in Shada.

You wouldn’t think there could be much variety in toilet designs, but the range of nuances and features to be tackled is tremendous.  So we test out different models (the front-loader, the top-loader, the shorty, the flusher…), and see how our users react.  Really, we don’t believe there’s such a thing as THE toilet design.  Every toilet back home is a little different, why should they all be the same in Haiti?  What matters is to create a line of toilets and features all compatible with an effective, hygienic waste removal mechanism.

We look to our users for their opinion, and they don’t hold back.

Smell is a big deal, and urine stinks. Our users had very strong opinions on where it goes, and how we deal with it.

Speaking of which, can men pee into a urine-diverting toilet while standing? Bad idea, we’re told.

But the height is just about right. A little footstand in the front that doubles as a box for cleaning supplies would be neat too.

The design workshop went well, and we had no trouble recruiting families to try out a new concept or two.  Now it’s time for some more long-term evaluation.

2 Replies to "A Community-Driven Design Process for Household Toilets in Shada"

  • Sharon Barefoot, RN, BSN
    July 30, 2012 (7:12 pm)

    Great that SOIL is testing out designs in Shada. I lived in Haiti 3/2011 through 3/2012 and know the community of Shada. One of the head Matrons of the community Manbwa, I’m told is ill. I’d love to set up a fundraising site that could be filtered through a non-profit. Please contact me about partnering, if that sounds like something SOIL would be willing to do. I also might be able to find a matching donor. Perhaps the fundraising goals could be 80% for Manbwa’s health bills and 20% for SOIL?

    • Leah Page
      July 31, 2012 (2:58 pm)

      Dear Sharon,

      Thank you for writing and for your kind offer. Madame Bwa is a dear friend and colleague. And also, as you well know, a firecracker full force brilliant powerful woman who tirelessly works towards improving living conditions in Shada. Madame Bwa is in Cange today getting an initial checkup at the Partners in Health cancer clinic. By Wednesday we should have a much better idea about what treatment and care will be necessary. Would you be willing to email me at [email protected]? It would be good to connect up so I can send you an update as soon as I have more information and we can scheme about ways to help cover her medical bills. We have another volunteer interested in doing a Kickstarter campaign or something like that and I would like to put you in direct contact with her.

      Thank you again for writing. It fills our hearts to see that people around the world know how special Madame Bwa is.

      Love, Leah

      [email protected]

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