I am posting a brief response to a number of replies concerning cultural and religious issues with the use of urine.  The latter part of our report considers these issues in brief, but in summary, whilst our report focuses on the physical possibility of urine as a binder in mud brick construction, we spent some time investigating the social implications of its use, and our general conclusion was that whilst a practicable solution, the use of urine hinged entirely on the cultural and religious acceptance of the intended inhabitants of the shelter.  

To an extent, our report was done in abstract, taking the problem of water use in any arid location where mud bricks could be built rather than for a specific refugee camp whose cultural and religious makeup was known, but if the use of urine is not acceptable, it would not be implemented.

As for an alternative solution, we considered grey water (post cooking and washing) would be a potential source of post-consumption water for building, and would have less of a stigma attached to its use.  There would also be a larger volume of this available.  See report for further details.



As the UoS Live Project season kicks off again, I couldn’t help but notice that they are all so clean this year.  Anyway, I thought I’d put a link back to the very beginning of ours, so you can wade through what we waded through in chronological order.

In the beggining, was a bucket

And some evidence the outside world reads these things:

Ecoworldly & Duncan Mara Sanitation

Don’t forget to wash your hands


Apologies for the tardiness, but the report is finally on the report page, where it’s supposed to be!

Show and Tell


Yesterday we presented our Live Project to the school, in a bar in town, after a major power cut forced the closure of the Arts Tower and nearby university buildings. As we had a limited time we had to somewhat gloss over the ‘science’, and because we had only tested the kaolinite blocks, we were naturally a little cagey about the success of our experiment, which has shown some promising results, but for now we can’t be sure they weren’t erroneous.

On Monday we will be completing the testing for the montmorillonite blocks, and hopefully as these cover a wider range of liquid contents, appear to be stronger and comprise a likely clay in arid regions, fingers are crossed for some more definitive results that agree with those from the kaolinite blocks.

Although we may not be 100% sure without our further results, everyone we contact seems interested in the project. From the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology department a doctor offered to test our urine bricks for bacteria and pathogens; a Professor in Geomorphology from the Geography Department who has worked in Khartoum, guided us through the tricky field of soil; the Civil Engineering department has given us use of their facilities and assistance of the technical staff for testing, the Biology Department gave us use of a 37’C room (though we had to improvise our own drying room once the scale of brick making increased); a PhD archaeologist studying clay and pottery is interested in whether the structure of the urine bricks differs from water bricks; a Doctor from the Department of Engineering Materials helped us to understand the reactions between clay and urine, and the likelihood of further reactions once bricks are dried. All the academic staff we have approached have been supportive and helpful, offering knowledge and resources, some even inspired to investigate our research further.

Without them we would still be struggling to understand some of our areas of research, to them and everyone who helped, a big thank you.

The project is drawing to a close, we have to move on to our Studio projects but hope that our findings are useful, and are followed up by those with necessary expertise in the various fields. We are now completing our report which is to be published in a limited run, and preparing to present our findings to a congregations of N.G.O.s, engineers, architects, and more in London on November 20. For this we have a longer time slot, so we can put the science back in!


Press ganged

On the basis of all publicity is good publicity:


Big red machines!

Early on Tuesday morning we loaded up the van once more, this time to take our kaolin blocks to meet their fate. Fate in the form of a large red crush testing machine. We weren’t holding out much hope for the strength of the blocks, which weren’t very strong, but the water vs. urine comparisons were interesting, read on…


Big Red Crush Testing Machine, nicknamed Wendy.


Fizzy, leave it for 5 minutes…


Batch 11 did quite well in the dip test…


Batch 10 didn’t do so well…


Blast it with a high pressure hose…


Guess which one’s weee…



Kaolinite blocks were tested this morning, crushed, scratched, sniffed, dipped and hosed… The results, were illuminating. We knew the kaolin blocks would be weak, which they were, but the differences between urine and water blocks were very, very interesting.


As you can see I had an exciting weekend.