Gallery: Solar-Powered Split Bathhouses Provide Sanitation for 700 Chil...

Until last year, over 700 children in Shanmen, Gansu Province lived without proper sanitation and the spread of disease was a very real problem - one school was even forced to close due to an epidemic. As most homes do not have their own bathrooms, it was up to the community to provide one, so Madaifu, an association working with children in difficult familial situations in Gansu province, collaborated with BaO Architects to design and build a split bathhouse for the school children to use during the week and the rest of the public on the weekends. Covered in chalkboard walls to encourage the children to play and draw, the two-roomed bathhouse features solar hot water heaters and discharges its greywater into remediation planters to provide sustainable sanitation.

The bathhouse is composed of two rectangular buildings connected via a breezeway in the center. This public central space is covered in translucent panels and acts like a greenhouse, while doors on either side can be opened to encourage air flow. Buildings on either side are segregated for males and females and are very private. Each side has a shower area with 12 shower heads, a bank of sinks, changing areas, and toilets. Operable clerestory windows high on the outer facades of each room bring daylight into the space and allow for cross-ventilation and moisture removal. A 100 sq m solar thermal hot water system mounted on the roof heats water for showers and uses a boiler as a back up.

The entire building is set up on a plinth to facilitate the shower and toilet systems. Because the area lacks sanitation and sewage lines, the facility had to be able to process its own waste and greywater. Dry toilets separate liquid and solid waste into containers below the building. These containers are emptied every two weeks and dehydrated or composted to eliminate the spread of microbes. Wastewater from the showers is run through a basic filter and then discharged into a number of planters surrounding the bathhouse. Planted with bamboo, these phytoremediation basins treat and purify the wastewater through a natural process occurring in the rhizomes before sending the water back down into the ground.

Around 700 school children use the bath houses during the week, and they are encouraged to play and draw on the chalkboard-coated walls in both the inner courtyard and on the facade. These walls are also used for community messages and interaction. On the weekend, the bathhouse is open to the public for use by the adults in the area for a small fee. The Shanmen Split Bathhouse project cost about $50,000 and has received an honorable mention in the Urbaninform Competition in architecture for social investment at the MOMA in New York.

+ BaO Architects


Images © BaO Architects


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