Designing the Easy Latrine
Before we launched the Easy Latrine, the existing latrine options for Cambodians consisted of open defecation, dry pits, and expensive concrete bathrooms. Each of these options presented serious barriers to the adoption of rural sanitation. iDE set out to design a marketable toilet that could be manufactured by local producers. We aimed for a sustainable latrine: one that will not collapse, will not degrade year after year, will not fill up prematurely, and will not be abandoned. We recruited Jeff Chapin, while he was on sabbatical from IDEO, to design the latrine.
Using the Human-Centered Design (HCD) approach, we identified the unique needs, desires and barriers of users and produced a product that households wanted to buy and businesses wanted to sell, creating a sustainable solution that can be scaled across the country.
Insight: The patience to save money and invest is remarkable. Villagers will save for a lifetime to build a house and may save 3-6 years to build a latrine.
The Design Process
The design effort began with in-field contextual observations and interviews with the key stakeholders involved in latrine manufacturing, installation and use. The learnings from the observations were distilled and synthesized into a framework that illustrated the potential opportunities for the design offering and showed where it fit into the greater sanitation marketing effort. From there, multiple rounds of brainstorming, prototyping and user testing were undertaken to develop the latrine designs. From the multiple iterations, a design direction emerged that addressed user needs as well as marketing thoughts around how to position the benefits and costs of latrine ownership.
Insight: Children who have emigrated to the city or work in a factory with latrines often motivate their parents to build a latrine and may help finance the latrine.
In the course of the design project, iDE took four trips to the field after the initial user research to review prototypes with stakeholders – villagers, masons, ring producers and retailers. In all cases, a number of 2D and 3D prototypes were shown.
A Complete Product
The Easy Latrine is sold as a packaged do-it-yourself product; customers can purchase, install and use it in the same day.
The Easy Latrine has been recognized by Fast Company, International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), World Toilet Hall of Fame, the Lipman Family Prize, and the Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment.
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