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Sanitation services structure for New Orleans disaster victims

A recent University of Minnesota news story told about a successfully-completed design project by architecture students in our College of Design, to provide sanitation relief for New Orleans refugees and disaster victimes. To quote from the story:

The Clean Hub is a portable, self-sustained structure that provides basic sanitation services. It contains a composting toilet and a 4,400-gallon water storage tank that is replenished by a rooftop tarp that catches rainwater. Electricity from solar panels powers the lights, water filtration system, and composting toilet.

Under the direction of John Dwyer and Tom Westbrook, students in the Studio 4 architecture class started with an empty shipping container and, over the course of a semester, turned it into a structure capable of providing relief for people in great need.

"This will be the only functioning [sanitation] infrastructure in the whole neighborhood," said Dwyer.

According to Westbrook, the students were aided by the donation of many materials for the clean hub, including the shipping container itself, all of the steel, the toilet, solar panels, water tank, water filter, and sink. And the Clean Hub almost exclusively uses recycled or everyday materials, meaning the hub could be mass produced with relative ease and constructed on site using nearby materials.

For students, it was a chance to put their talents to work in producing something that may have a lasting legacy; in fact, FEMA is interested in the students' prototype.

Aaron Wilson, who worked on the "tank team," said that after three years of learning through books, it was wonderful to build something that will be used somewhere. "It was an amazing learning experience," he said.

"The students worked far more than they should have for this level of class," added Westbrook. What they were able to produce was "nothing short of a miracle."

An animation of the Clean Hub prototype taking shape can be seen at http://www1.umn.edu/umnnews/movie/perspective.html.