On the 4th April, we were able to start loading all the boys cubicles with the manure that had been collected earlier in March. All 10 IBC containers in the boys cubicles had been secures and piping attached. 1000 litres of both cow and goat manure had been collected and left for microbial reactions to take place, where methane bubbles were being produced. It is essential that we loaded some of the containers with the manure so that the microbial reaction that causes the methane to be produced could be kick started. Take a look here:
During the first few days at the school, both the art project and toilet construction excelled rapidly:
- In each cubicle of the boys toilets, the holes for each toilet seat were cut out and seats were installed
- All 10 IBC containers were moved into the lower tier of the toilet structure and piping was attached
- All sponsored doors had a white base coat, and designs were drawn on and painted
- Teachers at the school designed a mural for the toilets around that themes that had meaning to them
On the 28th March, the UK volunteer team arrived at in Kenya ready to get involved with the toilet project. The initial visit to the school and arrival included working with a group of older students to make devices that will increase the surface area within the digestion tanks. These devices will act as additional surface for the microbes within the digestion tank to attach to.
The panels of the toilets were initially going to be painted in three tiers. However, when the steel panels arrived they turned out to be bright blue. The team agreed to keep the colour as the background to the environmental education mural which will feature a tree of life showcasing species from microbes to mammals. The internal panels were also installed and painted with primer. These will be then painted with specific designs for each door that have been designed for each sponsor.
Bournemouth University postgraduate student Katie Thompson will lead the environmental art project, incorporating science and art collaboratively.
The toilet structure design went through a lot of changes before a final plan was confirmed. The final plan was to use a two-tier system with the cubicles on the top level and IBC’s (Intermediate bulk containers) containers collecting waste underneath. There are 23 cubicles in total, with an 1000 litre water tank underneath each. Having an individual tank for each toilet means that if any errors with one, the system can carry on producing gas from the others and any issues can be addressed easily. The piping for the toilets also arrived on site which will link the toilet basin to the IBCs.
A week before the volunteer group were heading to Kenya, a cyclone hit the school causing mass flooding. This halted the project for a couple of days, and was a good test of whether the structure could withstand the extreme weather… safe to say it did!
The beams of the eco-toilet structure were constructed at such a rapid speed! Over the period of a few weeks, the land was dug out in preparation for the structure and local workers were employed to work on the construction phase. It is essential that we can construct the toilets at a rapid speed for future use in deployment in disaster zones and lower economic communities.
This is the first chance we had to see the size of the structure and the next stage of the project…
Researchers from Bristol University are now working with Akamba Children Education Fund, installing microbial fuel cell technology to generate electricity from urine. This is a massive step in the project, as we will now be generating power from both urine and poo. The microbial fuel cells work by feeding on urine (the fuel) using the biochemical energy that is generated and converted directly into electricity. All that is needed to generate this power is the waste product, making it a sustainable green technology solution. The combination of biogas production, and using microbial fuel cells to use urine and mud to generate power makes the project unique.
On a rainy Monday (05/03/2018) in Kenya, 1000 litres of cow manure arrived on site in barrels and ready to be put into action. The anaerobic biodigester depends on a series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products is biogas, which will be combusted to generate electricity and heat for the school. We’re using the manure to kick start the biodigesters in the green toilets which will allow us to convert human waste into biogas.
Along with the arrival of the manure, work on site is making steady progress. The foundations for the structure are now underway which will hold the steel frame structure in place. The skeleton assemblage of the structure has also began, with steel beams being welded together off site. The next step is to get the structure to the site…
Over the last couple of weeks, local workers in Kenya have been busy completing the new foundation walls in preparation for the toilet structure. This include tonnes or material being moved and flattening to create a level surface suitable to withstand the two tier shipping container unit and 5000l+ water tanks. Ensuring that the surrounding walls are secure is integral to the whole structure, not only for the functionality but also to make the toilets a safe environment for the students and teachers within the community to use. Now that this stage has been completed, work can now begin on building foundations of the toilet structure itself.