Community WaSHUp Spaces

Despite the presence of numerous ablution blocks in the informal settlement of Langrug, maintenance issues, blockages, vandalism, and distance restrict residents from utilizing the facilities.  Because of the inefficiency of the current services, many community members are forced to compensate with unsanitary and rudimentary means. Doing so invites poor hygiene, disease, and prevents residents from partaking in a higher standard of living.

To begin, our team developed relationships with residents to further understand the WaSH-related social, psychological, and economic needs of the community. By researching these needs the students and their co-researchers recognized the importance of community driven solutions and developed a holistic idea that improves the existing ablution structures using community input. If successful, the team will create an environment that is appealing to local residents, and thus promote a sense of pride and a feeling of ownership.  With immediate community involvement and interest, it would then be possible to build the awareness and practical capacity of residents to adopt proper hygiene practices.

In order to successfully implement this idea of sustainable community space designs around existing ablution blocks, the following steps were created by the WaSH Team. A succinct process was outlined for communal sanitation and space upgrading to be used in all areas of Langrug.  After completion of the process and implementation of a design, community members and non-government organizations (NGOs) in Langrug will be able to evaluate the success of the design and determine what needs improvement. Additionally, the WaSHUp Process, as adapted from the 2011 WPI Greywater Team’s process, was written with the intent that it would be a living document; the steps can and should be re-used and modified as needed.

Process for WaSHUp

To learn more about the WaSHUp Process Click here.


Implementation in D Section

The decision to implement the process in a section of Langrug was the result of several factors. Firstly, the student team felt that it was necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness of the WaSHUp Process and refine any steps that were flawed once actualized. Secondly, it was valuable to combine the diverse expertise of the students and co-researchers for this initial attempt instead of waiting until the students had returned home, where distance would restrict their role to that of advisors rather than collaborators. Third and finally, it was important to demonstrate to the residents the potential that their open spaces have to become valuable communal areas and change the way that they view the everyday structures they are surrounded by.


Together the seven team members enacted the first three steps of the process. The three co- researchers conducted a meeting and talked to the community in a continuation of Step Three and, with additional suggestions of the student team, the residents addressed other concerns which are listed further down the page under Additional Designs for D section.


Educational Children’s Paintings

One of the improvements to the toilet facilities that the WaSH team implemented was painting. At the D section block, the team painted the alphabet across the front of five adjacent wash basins. Two days later, the co-researchers painted numbers across the front of the wash basins on the opposite side along with the inside of two toilet stalls. Both the letters and the numbers were painted in a pattern of three or four colours. These paintings are intended to accomplish two significant objectives. The first is the educational benefit. Educational stimulation is crucial to developing children, and can be provided by and numbers. Halfway through painting the alphabet, a group of roughly 25 kids assembled around the team and began singing the alphabet, counting, and singing other songs. The second is the improved appearance of the ablution blocks. The change in the toilet stall interior from dark grey to clean white was immense, and made the stall feel much more open, clean, and welcoming. The colourful letters and numbers on the basins made that area feel more fun and lively than it did before.

Helping to Paint

Based off of this implementation, there appears to be great potential for paintings to be used as a vehicle for improving early childhood development in Langrug. In addition to the alphabet and numbers, the team has highlighted some other ideas as valuable. These include days, months, seasons, colours, animals, nature, foods, and other simple words from which kids begin to learn the spellings and sounds of words. Games could also be painted on concrete floors to encourage kids to play these games as opposed to on the toilets. Painting could also be used on a large scale to improve the appearance of facilities. White and bright colours open up space, and make them feel more clean and inviting. These bright colours also reflect light better at night, and could improve visibility inside the stalls at night. All of the above painting ideas would help community members value the facility more, leading them to take better care of it and bring future upgrading.


Foot Operated Tap

After painting the D-section basins and toilets, the team began looking at developing ways to best install a tap using the process we created. We began by thoroughly talking to the community and sharing ideas about different tap designs as well as asking about what their thoughts on the current taps. The community expressed that the taps are often stolen because they are made from valuable metals and that the newer plastic twist taps often break when there is too much torque applied on the tap. The community members also have back pain from bending over when using the standard .75m taps.

Implemented foot operated tap in D section

To address these issues we worked with our co-researchers to modify the water tap designed by the 2008 WPI Cape Town Water and Sanitation with insight from Aron Ndzondza of Ubuntu Plumbing . The co-researchers got the team in contact with Aron because of his work on the RDP housing plumbing adjacent to the Langrug. The taps are fully encased in steel-reinforced concrete, save for the foot pedal notch at the base of the structure. The steel-reinforced concrete of the entire structure will protect the internal plumbing work against wear and tear as well as vandalism and theft, as will the concrete around the foot pedal. The foot pedal design operates by applying pressure to the metal button, which will then control the release of the water by turning a valve in neck of tap. The design has an internal foot pedal, walls around the basin to reduce splashing water, and a concrete encased spout. The premise of a foot pedal design is to prevent germ contamination of the water spout by limiting hand contact. Residents not touching the tap will make the system more sanitary, hygienic, and reduce fecal-oral diseases.

Additional Designs For D Section

Erosion Wall

The presence of an erosion wall at D Section would be very helpful, especially during the rainy winter season. Currently there is a portion of the wall that is gone, and another part that is leaning badly. Fixing the existing wall and building a new portion would prevent runoff from flooding the facility when it rains, and also prevent the ultimate washing out of the dirt wall when it becomes sufficiently eroded. This would be a relatively easy job for a build team, and the material used could be wood, concrete blocks, or clay which is abundant in the settlement.


Food Waste Bins

A large problem that community members have experienced with the toilets and laundry basins is that they become clogged after other residents dump food in the drain or bowl. Many individuals do dishes at their residence by filling up a bucket of water, washing dishes in the bucket, and then putting leftover food waste into the same bucket. They will then take the bucket to the toilet facility and dump it into the toilet or sink, oftentimes causing blockages. The team believes that the installation of a food waste disposal bin in the D section toilet block would help to alleviate this problem.

Locking food waste bin frame

A large garbage can could be placed in this design by sliding the rime onto the metal tracks until it reached the supportive circular ring at the bottom. This metal frame would be bolted into the side of one of the cement toilet stalls as well as the cement floor. The can would be secured in this frame by a locking arm that would connect the metal tracks. While theft of the metal would likely be an issue, if enough community ownership of this design could be garnered this threat can be alleviated.

The bottom of the can would have many small (about 0.5-1 cm) holes in it to allow liquids to pass through into the drainage channel below the can, while catching the food solids. The holes in the bin could be punched with a hammer and nail, making this design very cheap and simple. The bin would need to be emptied into a dumpster periodically by a community member depending on its size and level of utilization. The food and waste bin would be enhanced by the supplementary installation of nearby signs encouraging people to dispose of their food waste and general garbage in it.


Laundry Wringer

Laundry Wringer

In talking to the community near the D section wash basins, the desire for a laundry wringer arose. When women do their laundry at the basins, clothes are saturated with water, making the load very heavy and hard to carry home. This then limits the amount of laundry women can do at once. A wringer would force most of the water out of the clothes, making  it substantially easier to carry the load home, and people would be able hang up their clothes on the line for a short period before they were completely dry. In order for this implementation to occur there must be a community member willing to take responsibility for the wringer, as theft would almost certainly occur if it were left in the ablution block. Instead, this individual could keep it in their house and loan it out as needed.



Installing lights in the D section ablution block would greatly improve the safety of the facility. The style of light that the team has conceptualized would follow one of two schemes below.

The first style is that of fluorescent tube light bulbs between one and two meters long. One tube light could be located above the wash basin area, oriented parallel to the front and back edges of the basins and would light up the whole wash area. Another light could be located in the toilet area, oriented parallel to the toilet stall doors when they are closed. This light would be hung at a level such that maximum light could shine from the tube into the stalls between the top of the door and the concrete ceiling. If the inside of each toilet stall was painted white as was done by the co-researchers in two locations, more light would reflect inside the stall which would brighten it at night. Both of these tubes would need to be mounted and secured in such a way as to avoid theft and breakage. To best ensure this it would be best to locate the light in a high and hard to reach place, and keep the tube contained in both a plastic case and behind a metal cage.

The second style of light that could be used is the LED light bulb. These smaller bulbs would be placed strategically around the facility, for example two in the wash basin area and two in the toilet section, to provide sufficient and well-spread lighting. LED bulbs would require less protection than the tube lights, as they are less expensive and less fragile. However they would be more prone to theft as they are more practical for at-home use than tube lights. Plastic and metal encasements for these bulbs would be recommended to prevent them being broken, and they should be located in a high place.

In both styles, LED lights are recommended for use since they are much brighter and energy efficient than standard incandescent lighting. If LEDs are used, proper steps must be taken to ensure the well-being of the light due to its initial cost to prevent breakage and theft.



The locks on the toilet stall doors are a major problem that was identified by the community. The current locking mechanism is a metal slide that inserts into a hole in the door frame. The problem with this is that these slides often require a lot of effort and hassle to even move, and also that there is a hole for a lock both inside and outside the door. Many community members and the co-researchers expressed a fear of being locked inside the toilet stall by someone, especially at night. Additionally, it is possible for someone to open the door while another is inside, as the slide can also be operated from outside.

Upgrading the locking mechanism would greatly increase the feeling of safety of residents, and would not be extremely difficult. Some ideas the team has thought of are a door handle with a button lock, similar to home or office doors, a sliding lock that inserts into the door but only from the inside, or a simple hook that inserts into a circle. The primary challenges to these designs are fastening the parts into the cement walls, and protecting the parts from being stolen


Program for Educational Paintings

Although the implementation of educational paintings is important for early childhood development, community initiative could further maximize their effectiveness.  Our team recommends the development of an informal educational program centred on the paintings. An individual could be responsible for encouraging interaction between the children and the painted alphabet and numbers, a task that could involve prompting the recitation of the alphabet or having participants name the shapes and colours used.



The implementation of signs to the D section block to accompany other additions like a soap dispenser and food waste bin would be very beneficial. A hygiene sign would have facts about germs and how diseases spread section in order to increase basic awareness. The same sign could also educate people about the importance of hand washing, and instruct them as to the proper way to do so.

Hand Washing Sign

A sign about waste disposal would illustrate the negative repercussions of improper waste disposal, such as blocked drains and toilets, and teach people the proper way to dispose of food waste and general trash in the bins provided. It would be most effective for these signs to depict these things with as many pictures and concise wording as possible, and be written in both English and Xhosa.

Soap Dispenser

The addition of soap dispensers in the D section ablution block will improve health and sanitation. The soap dispenser can be securely bolted next to the washing basins in D section.  As there is no soap currently provided, if people want to properly wash their hands they must buy their own soap.

Soap Dispenser

The team has suggested a soap dispenser over bars of soap so that it cannot be stolen as readily. The dispenser would have a lip under where the hand would go to receive soap, preventing people from fitting a container under the dispenser to steal liquid soap for themselves. The soap would be biodegradable so that if it were not properly disposed of it would not be as detrimental to the environment as normal soap. Maintenance including restocking soap, fixing the dispenser, and preventing theft (to some degree) could be managed by either by the Pholo-Ka Hola maintenance company or a selected caretaker. The team believes that a soap dispenser would work best with the caretaker model since this person could keep watch on soap usage, encourage people to wash their hands, and monitor the maintenance of the dispenser. Soap should be implemented with supplemental signs which illustrate facts about germs and disease, and instruct users on the proper method of hand washing. Soap dispensers will help to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria furthering sanitation practices in Langrug.