Reinventing the Toilet

Karl Hurn
Loughborough University


Karl Hurn
Program Director
Industrial Design
Loughborough University

This paper outlines the research and design development process undertaken to create a user centred sanitation design solution for developing countries as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ‘Reinventing the toilet’ challenge.

The context of the Gates Foundation challenge is outlined as well as the development of the project within the University that led to the formation of a multidisciplinary team from Loughborough Design School and the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) within the School of Civil and Building Engineering. This team would not only develop an innovative engineering solution in the form of a hydrothermal carbonisation reactor (HCR) for processing human waste, but also develop the innovative user centred, ergonomic and industrially designed front end toilet solution that is the main focus of this paper.

The user centred research methods used both within Loughborough Design School and in the field in developing countries are examined as well as the design development methods that were used for the ideation and development of a range of prototypes that were to be exhibited at the Foundations Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Deli, India in early 2014.

The paper concludes with a review of the success of the project so far and the challenges that lie ahead as the project moves from the prototype development phase to real world field testing in China towards the end of 2014.