Public sanitation took a huge leap into modernity when urinals with an upright flushing apparatus in 1866 were first patented by Andrew Rankin immediately following the Civil War in the United States. The introduction of an easy to interact with and quicker-to-use specialized toilets made especially for use by men meant that gents no longer had to resort to go through the rigors of having to take off all their elaborate underwear to be able to use the toilet or use a wall or a tree to relieve themselves in case of an emergency. The urinal, being relatively cheaper to install than toilets, also allowed public sanitation agencies to set up more toilets. And though the design of the urinal itself has not changed much since they were first made (barring a few artistic endeavors), the flushing mechanism used in public urinals has undergone several makeovers with designers and sanitaryware manufacturers working very hard to come up with ways to make flushing of public urinals easier for the users as well as environmentally friendly. A new stream of thoughts in the field has even started to appeal to designers of urinals to try and make them as sustainable as possible to ensure that the supply of freshwater is used as efficiently as possible.
Unlike ladies, men around the world traditionally have felt little embarrassment in relieving themselves on a secluded part of a wall, a darkened alley or even a tree when nature calls, which is a major problem for municipalities looking to keep cities and towns clean, hygienic and odorless. But most public restrooms around the world are considered unhygienic and a hotbed for spread of diseases as they are poorly maintained. A prominent reason for this failure to maintain the sanitation level in public urinals is the lack of adequate supply of freshwater and since conservation of water is a major concern for public agencies around the world, the only way public restrooms can be properly maintained without using up too much water is if they are made with sustainable flushing mechanisms.
The use of grey water and composted human waste in irrigation is not a new concept but it has yet to be applied to the waste generated by public urinals. If the concept of a sustainable urinal is indeed investigated with honesty, one would find that therein lies not only a chance to improve sanitation levels in public urinals but also an opportunity to re-use water flushed away in these public restrooms. By filtering the flushed water and urine and using it to irrigate flowerbeds, the dual purpose of reusing precious water supply and watering plants could be served. Since plants possess the natural ability to process and eliminate toxins that give urine its dreadful smell, an additional filtration and deodorization system would not be required to cleanse waste water generated from public urinals.
Lack of privacy is a major concern that dissuades people from using public restrooms. With designs like this Sustainable Urinal in place, however, people would be made to feel a greater sense of privacy. Since the cost of maintaining plants that are irrigated with the waste water from the urinals is next to nothing, municipalities would be more open to installing such urinals in cities and towns. Also, because plants help purify the quality of the air as well, having such urinals at various places around the city would be a more appealing prospect for both the public as well as municipalities.
1. Pee Pee Tree urinal
The Pee Pee Tree Urinal by designer Xiao Chowen basically reinvents peeing on a tree for a more sophisticated urban gentleman. The urinal comes with built-in planters which help to eliminate the offensive odor of urine at no extra cost though with its circular shape, privacy for each person using it is entirely guaranteed.
2. Wheelie bin urinal
The “Wheelie Bin Urinal” is an experimental installation by designer Stephan Bischof which aims at trying to raise awareness about a phenomenon otherwise known as “when you have to go, you have to go”. The main reason why folks pee in public is the fact that they just can’t hold it in till they come across the next public urinal, and that is exactly what this urinal looks to address. By allowing people to relive themselves in urinals that are enclosed within the confines of a public restroom tucked away in a far corner of a street, the concept could, at least in theory, prevent people from resorting to peeing on wall or in alleys between houses.
3. When Nature Calls
An undergrad industrial design student at the University of Cincinnati, Eddie Gandelman kills two birds with one stone with his innovative “When Nature Calls” public urinal concept. Not only does the urinal boast of high sustainability credentials, the tall plant in the middle of the cylindrical urinal also ensures a lot of space and adequate privacy for each person using the unit.
A common problem for municipalities looking to ensure that people don’t use public walls and streets as urinals is that folks just don’t want to venture inside a public restroom to do their business. To counter this problem of simple laziness, Mexican designer Miguel Melgarejo has created the “Axixa” public urinal. Named after the word for urine in Nahuatl, the Axixa basically is shaped like the mark that appears after someone has peed on a wall. The discreet toilet does not use up a lot of space and can be installed on wall and only needs to be connected to the city’s sewerage system. The simplicity, intuitiveness and effectiveness of this concept makes it sustainable and practical.