Development of an Improved Arborloo to Promote Sanitation in Rural Environments

EPA Grant Number: SU835514
Title: Development of an Improved Arborloo to Promote Sanitation in Rural Environments
Investigators: Thorn, Brian , Brownell, Sarah
Current Investigators: Thorn, Brian , OConnor, Airin , DeLeo, Anthony , Burley, Evan , Hyde, Greg , Wilson, John , Eppolito, Jonathon , Rojano, Joseph , Bentley, Katie , Gebo, Kevin , Liebman, Lori , Keehfus, Mac , Coffey, Michael , Conklin, Nathan , Morabito, Patrick , Cruz, Pedro , Zheng, Raymond , Svintozelsky, Samuel , Brownell, Sarah , Snell, Victoria
Institution: Rochester Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $14,992
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Every 20 seconds a child dies from a preventable illness caused by unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation.  Although the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for water access have been met ahead of schedule, the world is not on track to meet goals for access to sanitation by 2015.  Nearly half of the people living in developing regions still lack improved sanitation. Poor countries with large rural populations offer even less access to sanitation. For instance, in Haiti, sanitation coverage actually declined between 1990 and 2010 (from 26% to 17%) and only 10% of rural Haitians currently have any form of improved sanitation. The goal of this project is to design, develop and evaluate a simple, inexpensive, and effective toilet that can be easily erected in remote locations and installed using local labor with few or no tools. The design must be capable of withstanding local climate extremes (strong winds and rains) without permanent damage while providing the user privacy and protection from the elements.  Most importantly, the final design will be an affordable, marketable product intended to increase the comfort, convenience, and social status of its owner rather than a do-it-yourself project. The new toilet designs should help accelerate the toilet dissemination process using marketing strategies.  Because the designs will be fabricated using as much local labor and materials as possible, their manufacture, marketing, sales, installation and maintenance may provide an entrepreneurial opportunity within the community.


A Sustainable Engineering Capstone Project team (graduate students) will investigate barriers to the dissemination of low cost sanitation systems in rural, developing world environments. Based, in part, on results from this project, three Multidisciplinary Senior Design teams of engineers, designers, and business students (undergraduate students) will design, fabricate, and test a series of prototype toilets and develop a business model to meet the rural sanitation design challenge faced by countries like Haiti.  The designs will be loosely based on Paul Morgan’s Arborloo, essentially a shallow pit latrine with a movable superstructure that facilitates the safe conversion of human waste to compost for planting fruit trees and other vegetation. Appropriate toilet designs will provide enhanced sanitation for users and the ability to turn human waste into compost for agroforestry. Production, sales, marketing, and installation of the toilets using locally available labor and materials will provide an entrepreneurial opportunity within a community.

Expected Results:

Multiple designs will be generated. They will be evaluated against appropriate criteria as identified by the design teams in consultation with advisors and likely users. Such criteria will, at a minimum include the ability to sequester waste material, structural robustness, cost, transportability, ease of construction, appropriateness of materials, and environmental impact of the system across its lifecycle. The most promising designs will be prototyped and evaluated across a range of potential users. We are targeting development for the environment in Haiti because Haiti embodies the difficult sanitation challenges faced by many countries--poverty, poor infrastructure, and low levels of education—that keep the world from meeting its sanitation goals. Identifying a solution that works there could have worldwide impact.

Supplemental Keywords:

sanitation, human waste remediation, lifecycle assessment, design for the environment;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report