WaSH Facility

Decision to Implement

Following the unfortunate realisation that we would not be able to move forward with the implementation of the MPC, we reached a turning point in our project. With only two weeks left, we needed a focus for the remainder of our stay. After discussing various options with the Working Team, CORC, and the Municipality, we decided that our time would be best spent focusing on the development of an innovative WaSH facility. The WPI Cape Town Project Centre has had a consistent focus on water and sanitation projects since 2007, and the WaSH team this year prepared by spending seven weeks researching a sustainable sanitation structure. Providing informal settlements with proper water and sanitation is an on-going struggle, and the community of Langrug is no exception.  Currently, there is approximately one toilet for every fifty people in Langrug, and although the Municipality has been working to improve this ratio, it is still far from South Africa’s standard of five families per toilet (CORC 2011). Furthermore, the GE Foundation has provided WPI with a grant to spend on an innovative, community-driven sanitation project. The implementation of a WaSH facility would not only meet the partnership’s desire to implement a physical structure, it would also  address a critical community need, secure an adjacent plot of land for future MPC construction, and establish Langrug as a site for ongoing WaSH innovation.

Key Elements

The final WaSH design goes beyond the standard in sanitation by incorporating community-driven aspects with innovative sanitation services. Building off of the 2011 WPI WaSH team’s project, we worked with CORC representatives and the Working Team members to design a WaSH facility that could be easily incorporated into the MPC in the future. The facility includes five hand-washing sinks, two of which are lowered for children, four laundry basins in a central area so mothers can watch their children while washing laundry, urinals, two showers, and a total of nine toilet stalls – three each for men and women, two for children, and one unisex handicapped stall. During operating hours, the facility will be monitored by a caretaker responsible for cleaning, maintaining, and distributing toilet paper and soap. The WaSH facility will be well lit and secured at night with the possibility of a toilet and tap to be accessible after hours. The facility will be multifunctional and include a children’s learning area, a hair salon, benches, and gardens. These characteristics will provide a more welcoming and dynamic communal space, an approach that has proven to increase the longevity and sense of community ownership of such facilities (Hobson 2000).

Technical Design

The outer structure consists primarily of poles, timber and zinc sheets; these materials were chosen because they are easy to work with, obtainable at a relatively low cost, and are familiar to the community. The toilets, hand sinks, and laundry basins are made of a composite material that is both durable and aesthetically pleasing. The toilets use a push button, cistern-less design reducing the risk of vandalism by concealing the plumbing behind the walls. The facility has been designed with the intention of introducing sustainable sanitation options in the future such as:

  • Rainwater collection for hand washing sinks
  • Greywater collection and recycling for toilet flushing
  • Urine divergent toilets

Construction Process

By the completion of our project, we had erected the main structure of the facility which includes the walls, roof and concrete slab, and base plumbing infrastructure. In addition to the physical building, we developed plans with the Working Team to continue construction after we leave. Though the facility was ready for the installation of toilets, we felt it best to delay installation until caretakers were trained and employed by the Municipality to ensure the long-term sustainability of the new facility.


WPI, the Working Team, CORC, and the Municipality all worked together in a collaborative partnership throughout the entire implementation process, and were able to accomplish an impressive structure in an extremely short period of time. The commitment and immense amount of effort put forth by the Working Team truly showed their dedication and perseverance to the upgrading process. Trevor Masiy, a Langrug community leader, rose to the occasion and presented himself as a key force throughout construction. His building expertise and drive was inspirational and will be critical for the completion of the facility. Alfred Ratana, like Trevor, was extremely hard working and kept morale high with constant jokes, singing and dancing. Hendri Steenberg, a municipal field worker, supported us every step of the way, especially with logistics and design recommendations. Olwethu Jack from CORC was instrumental to the design process and to fostering effective working relationships. The construction of the facility was a true multi-stakeholder process that all agreed had strengthened the Langrug partnership by bringing everyone together to work toward a common goal.

Implementation Challenges

Throughout the construction process, we faced many challenges. The decision to move forward with the WaSH facility left us with only two short weeks to finalise the design as well as finish critical construction. Although challenging, it was fascinating and useful to learn the working habits and building techniques of the Working Team and collaborate with them so they felt responsible for the structure. Furthermore, materials were difficult to obtain on such short notice, and logistical issues of transportation and partners’ availability made the process complicated. During the second week of construction, farm worker riots prevented us from reaching the build site for two full days, and when we returned, we discovered that most of our tools had been stolen. Though these obstacles challenged our timeframe, everyone showed their resilience and pushed to keep the project moving forward.

Construction Phases

The WaSH facility will be implemented in three main phases as presented below and is projected to take an entire year. We completed the first phase, leaving plans for the partnership to continue construction on to Phase II.