Helping the homeless with hands, heads, hearts
You've got four friends, six bucks and 72 hours to build a portable toilet for the homeless. You ready? Then welcome to this year's Design...
Seattle Times staff reporter
You've got four friends, six bucks and 72 hours to build a portable toilet for the homeless. You ready?
Then welcome to this year's Design Build Challenge, a three-day competition in Seattle in which teams of amateur architects team up with local nonprofits to create innovative solutions to real-life problems. This year, all the nonprofit partners serve the area's homeless.
The competition is sponsored by Project Locus, a national nonprofit that encourages social responsibility among architects.
Beginning late Thursday, 30 amateur architects, most of them University of Washington students, divided into five teams, met their nonprofits and got their assignments.
Two teams were asked to design and build portable toilets for the homeless. Two other teams were asked to design traveling memorials for homeless people who have died. The fifth team was asked to design an educational kiosk where homeless communities could learn about waste management.
There's a chance, if the final results are good enough, the designs could actually be used to help the homeless.
The two teams assigned the task of building a portable toilet labored in separate backyards on opposite sides of the city.
In Ballard, five guys, all undergraduates at the UW, built a toilet out of wooden shipping pallets, burlap sacks from the Tully's Coffee plant, and an old tub that once held kalamata olives. Their compostable toilet's bowl was a blue plastic barrel the team saw on the street and traded for a six-pack of beer.
While there's no official budget for the projects, teams are encouraged to use recycled goods and spend as little as possible.
The Ballard-based toilet-building team used tools, but no hammers or nails. The finished kit would require no tools for assembly.
"We wanted to create a port-a-potty prototype that anyone could re-create using things they could find on the street," said Kit Kollmeyer, 26. Their nonprofit partner was Operation Nightwatch, a Central District-based homeless-aid program.
"So much of what we do as students is theoretical," Kollmeyer said. "This is actually something that's needed, and it's something we can build ourselves. That's kind of cool."
Meanwhile, in Madrona, the other toilet-building team spent Saturday in a basement workshop where it was so cold you could see your breath. Ashle Fauvre, 25, used a jigsaw on plywood to make the structure's base, while her teammates — all first-year graduate students — sawed, drilled and hammered.
"We're trying to create something that'll be really quality, but easily replicable," said Fauvre, whose team's nonprofit partner was SHARE/WHEEL, a group that works with tent cities in the Seattle area. "It'll slide apart and fold up into a portfolio-sized package."
The toilet-building project happens to come just as Seattle Public Utilities last week recommended that the city's pricey self-cleaning public toilets, installed in 2004 to provide clean facilities for the homeless and others, should be discontinued because of cost.
"It's an important project right now, and we hope our design is actually something that can be used," said Jack Hunter, 30, of the Madrona crew. "We don't know a whole lot about toilet building. We're longtime toilet users, first-time toilet builders."
A panel of five judges is to critique each team's final products at 4 p.m. today at Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church, 2400 N.W. 85th St., Seattle.
Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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