Posting in Design
The centuries-old flush toilet design is getting an overhaul, with an eye toward water and energy conservation.
Saturday is World Toilet Day, an annual awareness-raising campaign sponsored by the World Toilet Organization and aimed at improving santitation access for the 2.6 billion people around the world who lack it.
A number of NGOs are working to develop low-cost, low-power systems to address the public health dangers and environmental degradation that comes from poor sanitation in the developing world.
But there's also a fair amount of innovation underway to improve the design and efficiency of the conventional flush toilets. Herewith, a quick survey of some of these re-imagined toilets.
More than dual flush
Old-school toilets can use as much as five gallons -- five gallons! -- with each flush. To reduce that obvious waste of a precious resource, a number of manufacturers are offering dual-flush toilets. One lever is pushed for a "number one" and the other lever -- which sends markedly more water into the bowl -- is used to flush poop.
Yes, that is a sink you're seeing, integrated into the toilet. Here's the way it works. After you do your business, you use the sink to wash your hands. The sink uses fresh water, but that water is then stored in the tank as grey water. And then when the toilet is flushed, it uses the grey water instead of more fresh water.
The unit also includes a dual-flush, so it is already designed for efficiency.
But the use of the integrated sink only serves to boost the efficiency by eliminating the need to pump fresh water into the bowl.
And think about that for a minute: fresh, clean water, straight from a wastewater treatment facility, is pumped into the billions of flush toilets in around the world. There's no reason for that and it not only wastes the water, it wastes the considerable energy that went into cleaning and delivering that water to the building in the first place.
But the ergonomics on this model are a bit funky. Seems like it would be easier to use if the sink was positioned perpendicular to the bowl...and maybe a was a tad bigger.
And that's just what the Spanish company Roca did with its W+W (for wash basin and water closet) design. As with the Caroma, the water that goes down the sink's drain is collected, filtered, and then used to flush the toilet. But with the sink facing out from the toilet seat, it has a more separated look and, I would imagine, feel. In fact, it wouldn't feel odd to use the Roca basin for, saying, tooth-brushing.
The Roca model also uses an energy-saving faucet design. The handle always opens the faucet into a cold water position, so that the user can't inadvertently create demand for hot water unless he or she really wants to.
The DIY approach
But replacing a perfectly good toilet with the a new one like the Caroma or Roca is a bit wasteful in its
own right. But fortunately there are ways to recycle grey water for your sanitary needs through retrofits. Kentucky-based WaterSaver Technologies sells a solution call AQUS which collects water from your bathroom sink and pipes it into the water reservoir in your toilet. The company says the sink doesn't need to be located right next to the toilet for the system to work, because it can pipe the water across the room and into the toilet.
There are a couple down-sides to this approach, though. The holding tank eats up storage space under the sink, and the system needs to power to operate, so you'll need a spare outlet.
If space is as great a concern as water savings, there's this Yanko Design solution that combines not only the sink and toilet into a single unit, but tosses in a mirror, a mini table and a....espresso cup holder? That's what this design appears to offer:
In any case, the centuries-old flush toilet design is getting an overhaul, with an eye toward water and energy conservation. And that's a good thing.
Photos: Flickr/Britt Selvitelle, Caroma, Roca, WaterSaver, Yanko Design
Nov 17, 2011
I have also been thinking on similar lines as follows- Collect waste water from wash basin and bath and use it for flushing toilet in floor below. In large high rise appartment blocks in cities - water availability is an issue in cities - this will not only save water but also cost of infrastucter and energy in water supply and management. It can be adapted for low rise houses by adding additinal storage tank and pump. It is in fact very relavant in cities like Mumbai, Delhi where I live but I wonder if anyone is interested. If any one is interested I can provide a detailed write up.
Interesting read. I noticed there was no system to recycle the washing machine and shower water to flush the toilet. And I agree, using fresh drinking water to flush the toilet is just madness. The day will come soon, born from water shortages, when we will all use UDDT dry toilets. Mike www.kabook-i.com
We use the Kohler Cimarron low use and have never had to flush twice. We own 4 of them so in a dry City like Phoenix they are beneficial.
Thats my gripe with Caroma! The retail price here in New Zealand is $959NZ [671USD] .Whats more i spoke with Tristan the sales manager here at Caroma NZ . I asked him why it was so expensive. He said because of the extra parts ! When asked how extra parts made up of a spout & a small basin could triple the price he said "Oh well you are getting 3 items in the one thing , handbasin , a tap & a toilet" . He was unable to answer the question himself as essentially there aren't really any extra parts that would make this toilet 3 times the cost!He then hungup telling me not to tell him how to run his business!Shame on Caroma & Tristan that they are way overpricing this great product.
Just got back from 3 weeks in Italy and dual flush toilets were close to universal. There were so many of them that I suspect that regulation may have had a hand in popularizing them -- and they've been in use for a while because it takes time to do all those installations, new and retrofit. At home we have a cistern water supply, and when we built our home 5-gallon flushes were the norm. Now we are down to 1 gallon, and we no longer have to truck water.
Nice ideas, how about adding a 1.5" plumbing inlet so I can plumb directly from my sink? How about a flip up for guys to contribute to the gray (yellow) water easily? Don't forget national standards calculate 3 to 1.5 ladies to men respectively so see if you can imagine a way to capture the ladies contribution too....and please don't put the WC against the wall - there are lefties out there too!
We've had two Kohler low-flush toilets in my house for years; they don't require two flushes, in fact I'm quite happen with them. I like the Roca design. The City of Austin doesn't have a decent grey water program at all.
off the subject somewhat: can't we learn to say urine and waste instead of #2 and poo as was used in the article. i blame oprah for the popularization of poo. (if only that were her most grievous sin . . .) though my comment seems little more than a nit, has no one noticed we're becoming a nation of fourth graders in our use of speech and it might help to remember that how we speak is the result of how we think.
I spent three months in Japan in 1989 (way too long ago) and in most of the bars and small restaurants the sink-toilet combinations were common. So other than the do it yourself feature, I am not seeing a whole lot new here, just a broader acceptance. As for Bobinmo1, you should really research dishwashers. For many a year I was against them for waste also, but ALL the studies show that washing by hand uses FAR more water than a dishwasher, less energy and gets them cleaner. The only environmental downside to a dishwasher is the upfront useage of materials to build it, which is hard to calculate. But if saving water is your goal, buy a dishwasher.
When I spent $460 per toilet on Kohler toilets (I wanted the quality) for our house my wife thought I was nuts. Having the short flush for urine and a long for the solids gets down everything. Since we live with a well on our property we're always concerned about water usage. When we restored our home we didn't even install a dishwasher since they're such a waste. Don't assume that only city dwellers care about this issue. Meanwhile I have one small bath that would be perfect for one of those shown above. Now let's see if the pricetag makes it a solid enough value. While I'll pay for quality, there are some prices that are way out of our financial reach.
When a concept comes along like this, we all have to say why we didn't think of it.The Rocca concept looks great and is a great use of space and washing up is easy
I too have seen the Caroma toilet/ sink combo before from watching "House-hunters International". And the idea of using "used" sink water for the toilet is really a "why didn't they think of that before"?
This is just right for Mark Cuban...already invested in toilets, no NBA, lost sight of real high tech. lo flow lo tech. What's not to like?
Just an observation that if the loo is not properly cleaned then wouldn't you run the risk of some infection? Can anyone answer that?
Having moved into a newly built house, from one built in the 60's, we (my wife and I) were appalled by the low-flow toilets inability to get even the most smallest of solid waste to completely flush. These supposedly "water saving" "low flow" toilets required 3-4 flushes just to get anything down, and if you used any more than half a dozen sheets of paper to clean yourself, the toilet would clog without fail. My wife and I agonize over the loss of our normal toilets which actually *SAVED* water better than these since you only needed to flush once and *EVERYTHING* went down the drain! NO...save those lo-flow toilets for the granola eating eco-nazis...for normal people, they don't work
This sink over tank has been in use in most household in Japan for decades... I didn't see this mentioned in your article so I thought of throw it in.
We installed the Caromas in the zero-energy house we just built in Seattle. So far, they're great, and the placement of the basin doesn't seem ergonomically awkward at all, although those Roca models look really cool. The only thing you'll have to get used to is answering all the questions from puzzled guests. "Is that filtered poop water coming out of the faucet?" I never thought I'd say this, but my toilets are great conversation starters. zerohouse.wordpress.com
Vegas needs to seriously look at these toilets. So much water is wasted in Vegas, that it is disgusting. It's no wonder they are running out of water.
What a great idea! I can see more powder rooms being made possible with the toilet/sink combination. Hopefully the products will be reasonably priced.
Multi tasking gone wild. Toilet and sink in one unit. But, wait. There's more. Now you can take your espresso to the loo with you. Loved the article. Most of us don't pay attention to such innovations. This one gets filed for future reference.
The potential for water savings in the restrooms, residential bathrooms and lavatoriies throughout the world is incredible! I'm glad these innovative ideas are finally coming to fruition.
I'm quite taken with that Roca design, it's sleek and efficient and I think it's able to solve the space problem quite elegantly. Props to the designer. Thanks for the article, it was such an interesting read! Juan Miguel Ruiz (Going Green) http://www.GreenJoyment.com
Early adopters alway pay more... It's part of the price to being the first to get something. Wait and they will come down in price.
If the goal is to make "waste" a resource, then we shouldn't call it waste either. If how we speak is the result of how we think, then "waste" is a much worse alternative than poo. Nightsoil, excrement, feces, deposit, or dropping are much better than waste. Or how about my favorite term: humanure, after the fantastic book by Joe Jenkins who has developed a simple, effective composting toilet system.
Check out the Science Friday podcast on Nov. 18 to hear a detailed description of some of the innovative solutions to this problem. The goal in fact is to use NO water at all and make it as satisfactory and hygienically safe experience as possible. When you think about it, don't you think not pooping into your drinking water supply has the potential to be even healthier than the flush toilet?
I finally replaced my old 68 toilet with the Niagara-made "glacier bay" model from Home Depot, which uses the "tipping bucket" technology - it flushes great - does not clog up as my old one occasionally did - the only bad part is it doesn't clean itself as well as a toilet that "swirls" the water around the bowl, but I hear the newer models are better yet.
I have had similar experience with low flow toilets in the past. I just installed a duel flush toilet (Home Depot house brand $99) It works great.
Even greater example of Smart Planet's typical PR parroting - research and journalism free articles.
Very well said and what a great book "Humanure" by Joe Jenkins, this is what we need to be teaching our kids and yes there will be a few "gross" and laughs at the content but maybe the next generation will empathise with the shortage of clean water in third world countries when they realise with the amount of "Drinking" water we use to flush toilets!
We could use the RV industry's terminology: Fresh water is just that, 'gray' water is from hand and dish washing, 'black' water is sewage and solids.
If your low flush toilets are more than 10 years old, or were dirt cheap, maybe there are some problems, but most low flush toilets are fine and there are a couple of brands that actually handle "solid" waste better than old style toilets.