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Ancient structure inspires Archloo

21 October 2010

by Bill Bowder and Ed Beavan

A SIMPLE lavatory, based on the shape of a South African church that was in turn modelled on the Arch of Ctesiphon, in Iraq, the oldest and largest unreinforced earth arch struc­ture in the world, may be used to provide safe sanitation in refugee camps and rural villages across the world.

The Archloo was invented by the British water engineer Dr Peter Glover, and a team of engineers. It has already been built widely across South Africa, providing sanitation where conventional arrangements are impossible. Dr Glover is in discussions with aid agencies about using it in post-disaster situations.

The advantage of the lavatory, which is moulded on a removable wooden arch framework, is that it is quick and easy to build, lightweight, and cheap, Dr Glover says.

“We think that the loo could be very widely deployed wherever there is need for sanitation following a disaster. Because it only takes a week to teach six people to build one, they could then teach others, and very quickly there would be lots built for the whole community.”

He believes that more than 750,000 Archloos have already been built in South Africa.

Dr Glover based the design of the Archloo on St Margaret’s, Nongoma, in South Africa, a church built by his father, the Revd Michael Glover, a former missionary with USPG in the 1960s and also an engineer. It is modelled on the shape of the Arch of Ctesiphon, and Dr Glover was inspired by his father’s miniature model of the church, which he remembered from his childhood.

“No one believed the church would stand, but it did, and that was the inspiration. It’s much cheaper to build than a mud toilet, or a concrete structure which requires a lot of expertise and a long curing time for the slab.

“It is also very light but very strong, and because it is covered in mortar it doesn’t heat up like loos with corrugated roofs. Building mater­ials can be sourced locally. The nightmare in many regions is trans­portation costs, but these materials can even be carried on a donkey across a river.”

For this reason, he believes that the Archloo could provide sanitation quickly and cheaply after a disaster.

Dr Glover worked in development in South Africa for eight years after the end of apartheid, but now lives in South Cerney, near Cirencester. His father, aged 80, still lives in Nongoma, where his wife, Dr Amy Glover, is involved with HIV-support programmes.

Dr Glover has set up an open licence agreement on the Archloo, which means that it can be used by anyone, free of charge, on condition that they share developments.


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