News

Eco-toilets test the waters

A group of UM architecture students are spending this semester consumed with something most people do not think twice about – a toilet.

The students are a part of a studio program focused on designing and eventually constructing an eco-friendly prototype for a “mobile bathroom” that can be used in rural areas as well as disaster situations. The structure will include a composting toilet, shower and hand sink.

In the future, they think the prototype could become part of a solution to help the estimated 2.5 billion people living in poverty who have no access to a sanitary water and restroom facility.

Ariana Ragusa, a fifth-year student, said she is excited to be part of this project.

“We see the theory of architecture become the reality of architecture,” she said. “After spending hours and days on the computer you want to put these things that you’ve learned into practice.”

Rocco Ceo is the professor who co-teaches the design and build studio course with Jim Adamson, a founding partner of the Jersey Devil design and build group. Now in its fourth year, the group of about 20 students meets three times a week. The studio is not a mandatory part of the curriculum and is open only to fifth-year seniors and graduate students.

The students are currently in the research and design discussion stage. Both instructors are passionate not only about using green and sustainable energy but also about encouraging their students to take ownership of every project assigned to them.

“This semester we’re doing an off-the-grid composting toilet, shower and sink for a South Dade farmer,” Ceo said. “He has a bunch of farm hands that he hires, but he has no facilities for the workers and needs a solution to the problem.”

The “eco bathroom” will serve as a prototype for more facilities that the program hopes will be built in the future. Ceo said that the end goal is to have the mobile bathroom used in disaster recovery and rural areas for people who desperately need access to a bathroom and clean and hot water.

Ceo said that the students do not get to decide their projects each semester, but do get to choose the design and ultimate construction of the assignments given to them. This semester the “eco bathroom” project was suggested by Earth Learning, a nonprofit organization, to  provide a mobile sanitary facility for Verde Garden Farm.

Verde Garden, located in Homestead, focuses on providing job training, life skills and micro-enterprise opportunities for formerly homeless people and others. The farm community partnered with Carrfour Supportive Housing and the Homeless Trust of Miami-Dade County in an effort to establish housing, while Earth Learning focuses on developing the farm and nursery components.

“A big part of sustainability is knowing where things come from and where things go,” said Mario Yanez, executive director of Earth Learning. “Part of taking responsibility for our waste and finding ways to re-incorporate them back into the eco-system in a manner that’s responsible is paying attention to them. Things should be visible and educational.”

The students on the project share their supervisors’ enthusiasm.

“This kind of green technology is what’s really happening now in the field, so getting acquainted with it before graduation is essential,” said Francisco Jimenez, a fifth-year architecture student.

Adamson and Ceo like seeing their students grow and take control of the project.

“The most appealing aspect of it is the challenge, seeing the students come up with the solution to a problem and then build it,” Adamson said.

February 17, 2013

Reporters

Adriana Dueck


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Miami Hurricanes are running low on tight ends. But their receivers — notably sophomore speedste ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday: ▪ The pretty even split of carries between Travis Homer ...

The University of Miami has lost another player to surgery, and the depth was already lacking at thi ...

A six-pack of UM notes on a Monday: ▪ There has been no more popular or successful quarterback at UM ...

The Miami Hurricanes’ defense leads the nation in tackles for loss and stopping opponents on third d ...

UM President Julio Frenk outlined the strategies of the Roadmap to Our New Century, part of his Stat ...

Listeners to UM President Julio Frenk’s State of the U reacted positively to the message and the Uni ...

At UM’s inaugural State of the U address, President Julio Frenk detailed the strategies of the Roadm ...

Tropical storm scientists and climate experts at the University of Miami provided insight, observati ...

Joseph Ganitsky, a professor in the Miami Business School, examines the financial crisis facing Arge ...

Jeff Thomas may be quiet off the field, but the sophomore has been consistently making lots of noise ...

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Tuesday the league slate for the upcoming 2018-19 season. ...

Miami remained ranked in both major polls Sunday, checking in at No. 21 in the Associated Press Top ...

The Miami Hurricanes came to Toledo, Ohio for the biggest home game in the history of Toledo footbal ...

A quartet of University of Miami men's tennis student-athletes concluded the final day of compe ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.