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It’s a matter of shit

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Clean water and safe and clean sanitation were recognized by the General Assembly of the United Nations, as a right to fundamental human and essential. But today, over the 7 billion on Earth that we are, more than 2.6 billion lack access to water or to basic sanitation services. Indeed, this population finds different ways to relieve themselves: outdoors, in bags abandoned in nature – “flying toilet”; or in unsanitary latrines. Those ways are obviously harmful to health – cause various diseases; harmful to the environment – by polluting the soil and groundwater; and is against the dignity, privacy and security.

Providing improved sanitation facilities is liberating for women, and for the whole community. It is also a tool for social development for several reasons. Thus, hereafter offer a sanitary facility as a technological tool, to fill the parameter of dignity, we must also provide the right to health and privacy. Provide a space which is not dehumanized by the presence of a person who is in charge of the tool and its management, a healthy and hygienic equipment, a safe and especially comfortable, intimate space.

One question arises as, which kind of solution to adapt? A conventional network would create or extend a water/sewage system, which would be very expensive and difficult to install. A decentralized or autonomous devices, which would be managed by various private actors or informal, with a community implementation and/or a market logic; would be more appropriate.

Several solutions are possible, depending on the place (continent, country, urban or rural informal settlement,…). The objective for us is to provide an alternative to the impossibility of a conventional sanitation system. Most of the time, we choose for an independent, cheap and ecological option; that consists in a module of latrine. It has to be affordable, environmentally friendly, modular, small size, ventilated, using materials of the site, involving the community during construction, and managed and well maintained by the community.

Despite the serious consequences involved, today, the act of going to the toilet remains taboo because very intimate. Yet the need for action is urgent. This is a vital, a societal and environmental need. Then we as an architect what is our role? First of all, it comes to raising awareness on the issue and to understand the challenges involved. This promotion is perhaps the most important tool to reduce the impact of poor hygiene. Then of course, it’s about improving the living conditions of a community, by coming up with an easy system and design that could be easily reproduced anywhere by anyone else.

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