“Portal to Hell”

February 26, 2011

Portable restrooms are small. They’re disgusting. They smell and they’re scary.

“Oh that is ridiculous”

And they’ve even been described as a “portal into the depths of hell.”

University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning 2010 graduate Carly Hagins decided to change the perception of portable restrooms as part of her industrial design senior capstone project by redesigning today’s portable john.

“The idea is really important. It’s kind of hard to come up with a good idea,” Hagins said. “My mom said, ‘You know, you’ve always been interested in bathrooms. Why don’t you [do your project on] a portable toilet?’ “

Once the idea hit the table, it made sense – because nobody likes them at all.

Here is how it works:

Complete composting portable restroom:

The Complete portable restroom provides a better experience for the user, a more profitable venture for the business owner, and a more environmentally friendly option than other portable restrooms. It is a comprehensive solution for the portable restroom industry that strives to address the ‘triple bottom line’ (people/planet/profit.)

Complete’s waste tank is located beneath the floor of the restroom instead of under a bench-style seat. This opens up more room within the restroom, resulting in a more comfortable user experience.

Sawdust is dumped into the tank after each use of the restroom. The sawdust primes the waste for composting and minimizes odor within the restroom. Periodically, the waste and sawdust are pumped out of the tank and transported to a municipal composting facility. At the composting facility, the waste can be processed and will eventually yield healthy, sterile, fertile planting soil. (For more information on this process: http://humanurehandbook.com/)

Complete is designed with the same footprint as current portable restrooms. This makes it possible to retrofit existing restrooms with the ‘guts’ of Complete- installing the composting toilet while still using the old walls.

Composting toilets are completely odor-free, which would be an improvement from the pungent smell of current portable restrooms. By providing a better portable restroom experience, Complete would be a public health asset. People wouldn’t have to ‘hold it’ just to avoid using a portable restroom.

A new restroom that is both environmentally and user friendly would give businesses an edge when competing for customers. The possibility of being able to sell the compost, instead of paying to dump at a waste-water facility, would also provide a second source of income.

So, what does the redesign look like?

“I think design becomes the most powerful when it tackles hard issues,” Hagins said. “Sanitation is a hard issue.  People are uncomfortable when it comes to talking about bathrooms and what goes on there.  It’s a reality of daily life, though, and shouldn’t be overlooked.  To me, a well-thought out toilet is in many ways more impressive than a beautiful lounge chair.”

Significantly more impressive Carly and it has a much more important “purpose”!  You are well on the way to making festivals fun once again, and congratulations on your well-deserved prize last year.


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