Sunday, August 28, 2011

Showergy 2.0 Construction Updates

Hey all,

As the title of the post suggests, I shall just be putting up the construction updates. All in all, it seems to be going well.

Update Part 1:
Michelle and I made the first 3'X3' frame on Friday - and based upon that model, I constructed two other frames (dimensions: 2.5'X2.5' and 2'X2') after three painful days of blisters from shaving PP-R pipe-ends and Tangit PVC glue peeling skin off. Totally worth it!

Fig. 1: The three frames (dimensions: 3'X3', 2.5'X2.5' and 2'X2') and their relative sizes

The frames are made from 20mm PP-R pipes (the commonly used PV substitute here), were cut using the PVC blade, held together in frame by T-fittings made of the same PP-R material and for the purposes of this experiment only, stuck with Tangit PVC glue. (In the future, we aspire to have inter-locking systems that are strong enough to hold up the shower without the need for glue). As it currently stands, each frame takes 5-6 hours to build from scratch, but we shall also be looking at Process Optimization Methods soon. The solution perhaps lies in alternate design or materials.

Update Part 2:

Along with the construction, I'm also running a solar shower heating experiment (using the Super Solar Shower kit purchased from a camping store). The bag is to be filled with water (although the capacity is 20l , I'm currently using just 10l - which is the average amount of water people in the slums of Kwa Njenga use) and to be left out in the sun for a minimum of three hours before use.
Day 1: Water seemed to get pretty decently warm (would estimate around 30 deg C) when left outside in the sun
Day 2: No sun today, hence the water is pretty cold. Hasn't heated up at all.

The reason I'm running this side-experiment here is that once we go back to the States we can test out the exact mechanism, but to have an idea of the exact climatic conditions here would be difficult. Hot water demand appeared quite seasonal here, the highest demand being in the winter months (ie. right now) but the main issue with that seems to be that 1. the weather is erratic 2. oftentimes, the sky is overcast and the surroundings cool/cold (solar heating may not be the most efficacious of options in this case). We can definitely talk more about it at uni!

Fig 2: Super Solar Shower kit (includes shower container bag, control valve and shower head)

If you guys have any suggestions for construction, please let us know! Once Michelle's back on Tuesday, we're going to the slums to ask people what they think of the size of our frame and to see how well it fits within the house, how comfortable people feel inside it, etc. We shall also inform them that this is by no means our final product, and merely a prototype - so their suggestions would be more than welcome. We think that sounds like a good rounding off plan, what say, Team (Awesome) Showergy?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Showergy Meeting 3 - 26/08/2011 Minutes

Hey guys,

Here are the minutes of the Showergy meeting #3 we had today.

Attended by: KK, UC, MC, JH

Updates on what we did over the past few days here:
1. Sealing methods for the cap – glue difficulties. The only kind of glue that works is not available in Nairobi. Silicone wasn’t strong enough, an d epoxy cracked. Kevin suggested plastic bags ramming into the gaps, to make it air-tight and water-tight. But we said it may not be physically possible to do that.
2. Working on the “box” for the shower. PPR pipes bought – a lot more flexible than PVC, rigid in some ways. Different characteristic than expected. PVC pipes are not commonly used here. Currently it’s bent. Work on connecting it is being done. Trouble with the T-fittings, because of different size. We will be bringing back some materials from here to the US.
3. What type of people do we want to ask? People who don’t have showers, bathe inside their houses, already have bathrooms in their plots?
4. Get just the frames inside the house, maybe not the entire contraption. Have the frames be of different sizes, and then place them there to have people comment.
5. Solar shower – as a model to warm water from the camping store.
6. Factors involved in the economics and usage of water. We are not forcing them to have showers, they already spend money and water on the showers. We are just making their experience better.
7. List of things being brought back for other team members to read would be helpful.

List of things we’re getting to the States: (please add on items as comments if you'd like us to get some more materials or information before Sunday midnight EST)

5 container lids
1 10l container we worked on (jerry can) + our cap that we worked on
Some black tarp
Soap (tons and tons! And the most popular, different brands that include: Jama, Ushindi, Geisha, etc)
Sample of PPR pipe and the T-fittings
2 plastic showerheads
Solar shower device
glue (silicone, epoxy, PVC cement)
Soil (?) HIGHLY doubted
Chlorine tablets (used for filtering water)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Featured on Sanergy website


Showergy is currently being featured on the sanergy website at I (Michelle) wrote the article about our experiences so far.

Feel free to check it out! :D

Showergy 2.0 Pump Design Details

Hey once again, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, to describe the design of the pump.

Fig.1.1. Showergy 2.o Pump Design

Fig.1.2. Showergy Prototype pump constructed

Here's the prototype we constructed. We've managed to make it (almost) air-tight and water-tight and currently the pressure that the Bee Brand pump seems to pump is 45 PSI or 3-4 kg/m2. We're really looking to see how the design can be improved to maximize this pressure - it seems like we need a lot more pressure for the showerhead to function at its optimum. We'd welcome any and all suggestions for the same! Thanks guys.

Keep tuned,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Showergy 2.0

The past weeks here have been extremely exciting, and we have managed to secure some very interesting answers and tons of information regarding community life and sanitation in the slums. Having spoken to different stakeholders such as tenants (of all types, from the relatively well-off to those that barely manage to meet their daily expenses), caretakers, agents, landowners, youth groups, biocenter owners, special project engineers....the mix has been great!

One would ask: so how does that relate to shower design? It does! After our initial weeks of surveying, we came to the crux of some of the issues related to sanitation, particularly showers or bafus. Bathing at home seems to be the cultural norm for women, some of whom even run community showers themselves! Trust is a huge issue, and legitimately so, where it becomes difficult to be willing to shower around unknown people and places, which can get dangerous after dusk. Additionally, landowners aren't the most co-operative of people, or so it seems from the tenants' perspective. In any case, circumventing property rights would be immensely useful. But within the tiny over-populated house, space always seems to be the major issue. Cleaning up after bathing. Needing to send everyone, including children and visitors, out of the house is inconvenient. Showering outside is moreover expensive. Our shower needs to address all these issues: and more. Most importantly, it needs to be accepted. How do we make such a shower?

After much animated discussion, and inputs from many of the Sanergy team members such as Ani and Nathan, including very valuable contributions from Michelle's dad we decided to come up with a modular low-cost scalable shower model using low-cost materials we saw around the slums (read jerry cans, bike pumps, simple hoses and hand-held shower heads, tarp, wooden boxes) and are currently in the process of developing a prototype for the same. Here's a copy of what's currently on our google doc.

Showergy 2.0 Model Discussion

  1. No issue of landrights with owners, caretakers, agents, etc.
  2. Responsibility of maintenance upon the user
  3. Re-use more accepted, since within the family.
  4. Also, re-use safer since germs/diseases (if at all) can only be transferred within the family.
  5. Compact design, easy to pack away in a box
  6. Women can shower at home, their comfort zone (yay!) without needing to venture out
  7. Screen allows children and other people to remain inside home while women are showering
  8. Encasement ensures that surrounding area doesn’t get wet
  9. Modular design allows shower to move with the tenants, eliminating cost of relocation (since people here seem to move around between plots a lot)
(I suppose these shall just be the natural collolarly of the points discussed in the previous 2 columns, but feel free to add more!)
  1. Maintenance harder for the individual owner, who may be inexperienced (?)
  2. Still doesn’t eliminate bathing inside the home (if that’s an issue)

Questions that will be answered with time:
  1. Cost
  2. Re-use methods / drainage
  3. Larger-scale manufacturing
  4. Exact structure of the encasement of the shower
  5. Maintenance

Progress on the actual prototype in the next blogpost. :) Keep commenting!
Kwa heri,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recap of the second half/ Meeting notes

Recap of Wednesday and Thursday (from Meeting notes)
  1.  Discussing survey results
    - talked to people with directed question for the past two days in Kwa Njenga
    - Definition: Bathroom/bafu = an enclosed room (usually made from corrugated metal) with a hole to drain the water; typically bring water in a basin
    Questions asked in survey:
      - How much they spend on showers? Avg 5-10 L (2.5 - 5 shillings spent on water). Sometimes it would be more if they were using the paraffin or coal when they wanted heated.
      - How much time do they spend? Depends on the person
      - Water sources? 2 main ways: Connection to main pipeline and water vendors; another option is the boreholes, but way too expensive at 3-4 million KSH; save up water if there is a drought or have to go far to get water
      - Advantages of showers: free up hands, don't need to bend down , feels more luxurious
      - Constraints that we want to have: not increasing the amount of water per shower use
      - showerhead: low flow, high pressure; maybe have it be moveable to help increase
      - Will they use the shower? They seem to be willing to pay more rent, but not so much per use; average shillings that they said that they would be willing to increase would be 200 KSH. They are using the same amount of money for bathing as they would be if they were to pay for shower
      - current showers = no pumping mechanism and no running water; instead they just hand people basins to bathe in the same rooms
      - Recycle water? Most people were willing to reuse water to wash clothes and maybe even bathing if they knew that it was clean (definitely not for drinking or cooking); clean = clear, odorless, no impurities, and see that the treatment is working; very little agriculture because of lack of space
      - Size of plot: depends on household; 10 x 10; one room per household
2. Connections:
  • talked to the village chairman of Milamani (one region of Kwa Njenga)
  • talked to a few landowners
3. Technical Design
    - plastic and not using concrete outside
    - unit that can be assemble within their house (maybe?); changing room using plastic
    - something to collect water at the bottom to prevent water from escaping and deal with drainage
    - 4 plastic poles where there would be a plastic tarp to wrap around the side
   Pumping (refer to the diagram)
   - options: 1. pump before the shower 2. someone else pump during 3. pump   during the shower
   - use the jerry can and pump the water up using air pressure 

4. Goals for upcoming two week:
    • build a prototype
    • get a sense of what the pressure is and what would be necessary
    • later half of next week: bring it out into the field and hear what people think about it so we can make improvements

    Friday Notes
    We researched on different possible ways of creating the pump that had wanted to prototype and went out to the town to buy some materials. So far we have found a jerry can (that we washed the oil out), a bike hand pump, some tubing, and silicone. Our current plan is to figure out how to drill a hole into the cap without using an electric drill. There will be more updates later today or tomorrow in regards to our prototyping status.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Material Recap and Surveying

    Monday Recap--industrial area

    We walked to the industrial area and talked to a few companies there to see what is available. We were mainly on the lookout for what types of pumps are available, showerheads and what types of connections for various parts. We decided that the PVC pipes are widely available in the city so we didn't really focus on them.

    PIPES - we found two main types of metallic pipes that include a semirotary pipe and a drum pipe....they both were too expensive for our purposes but we have the specifications of the pumps so when we go back to the US we can reevaluate them....

    showerheads- we bought a cheap shower rose but we might want to reconsider and test out different ones later...

    Tuesday (today)'s surveying Results
    We talked to a few landowners and a few tenants in the Kwa Njenga area again focusing specifically on what are the current costs of a bath right now and how they are dealing with the lack of water. It appears that most of the people that we hvae met so far have been using 5-10 L of water for a bath  (essentially a basin full) per person.... and would pay more if they were to heat up the water.

    Landowners seem to think that there isn't really much issues associated with their lands and try to play off that they have been helpful to their tenants (but we aren't sure if they are just trying to tell us this because they want to sound good in the ears of the foreigners).

    I think tomorrow I am going to type up the results of the people that we have interviewed so far with some details that we have learned for people to read the raw data....

    Anyways, our plan for tomorrow is to continue more surveying but I think we have a slightly better sense of what the area is like and what people would like.... Ani suggested that we should try building a small prototype for people to test using so that we can see how receptive people would be to certain things such as the water pressure from different shower heads or whatever to increase the shower experience. I think there are a lot of details that we need to work out.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Showergy Meeting Minutes - 13.08.2011

    Meeting Minutes for 13th August, 2011 - Showergy, Nairobi

    Attended by: TKC, MC, KK, JH


    1. Determine need

    2. Determine features to include

    3. Determine implementation – strategy and challenges


    Why are people not using the shower? 1. Privacy 2. Money 3. Cold water (heating water using paraffin or charcoal usually here)

    Water vendors - from the same tribe (Kisi), get their water from the central government. 11000KSH to install the main pipeline

    Surveys with women - most men at work in the industrial area

    Types of women asked - 1. Household helpers 2. Unemployed 3. With little kids 4. Operators of bathrooms and toilets

    Landowners - Don’t really listen to their tenants, post-pone. They seem to have more of a say in the conditions of the tenants. Oftentimes, they don’t live on the plot, just come around to collect rent at the end of month. Tenants don’t usually have opportunity to speak up, or be heard. They seemed to be more willing to pay more in terms of rent should the plot have decent bathrooms/toilets.

    All hands-meeting with the community - is a question, because we need to give more information and more tangible stuff to every stakeholder involved in order to generate maximum impact. May have to be put on hold for the time being until we are more set.

    Partnering - who do we want to work with from the community? Amusha Youth Foundation. Description of who youth group is - community driven effrot to first organize football, and then run by the youth in order to do something for their community, some of their members also have other jobs and work elsewhere. More like a club. Ages ranging from 6-18.

    Facebook link:

    Translators - paying? yes

    Land owners - C.F. to Showergy Stakeholder Survey document dated 28.07.2011

    They seem to be very essential to the practical implementation of the project. How do we first find them though?

    1. Ask our translators

    2. Telephonic interviews

    3. Income generation aspects for the landowners to be figured out

    Talk to operators of toilets and showers - sometimes they are water vendors as well, sometimes the operators are community workers, sometimes they are youth groups or women groups. Water vending takes place in conjunction with toilets and showers.

    Consumers - How much they’re willing to pay? Showering not their top priority, first money goes for food and water, especially for the kids, but any money beyond that would be used for showering. Although it seems like it’s not their top priority.

    ‘Building our allies’ -

    1. Liasoning with people, communities and organizations outside just KJ \

    2. Going back to the same people we met earlier, to start gaining their trust, also in the hope that may connect us to other people around

    3. Time commitment

    4. Capacity building

    5. Other NGOs helping us garner more contacts - discussion about Sanergy’s involvement with them as well.


    Materials - accessible usually, but costs vary a lot and most prices are quite negotiable.

    a. Showerheads - mostly accesible, flow rate(?)

    b. PVC pipes - called PPR

    c. Pumps - can be slightly tricky, 1. China 2. Italy - hand or electrical ? Corresponds with observations in slums that water is hardly available, and that even if the water is there, pumps are not readily accessible. Mostly comparisons to be made as of now. Any other miscellaneous comments/ special fittings needed should also be noted. Specs to be asked/ noted.

    Pumps 1. Pretty expensive 2. A major reason for no overhead showers

    Soil 1. KJ has blackish, clayish soil that doesn’t drain that well (upto 3 days for the rain to totally evaporate from the soil), a concern for the biosand filter. Seems futuristic at the moment.

    The way forward...tests. Maybe it’s too early to do the majority of tests, although some preliminary ones can be done.

    1. Soil?

    2. Showerhead testing with pressure flow

    Design - can be done later at MIT as well, although some research in that area needs to be done. the more important thing right now seems to be that the community’s needs be really understood. It’s really important, at this point, to start


    Running showers mostly not used – because of 1. Lack of water - can control the amount of water to shower with just a basin 2. Lack of pumping mechanism to bring water to the overhead tank

    Urban agriculture - Water is not used in that area for growing anything locally, some poultry

    Water uses - Cooking, drinking, washing clothes, bathing - 2 jerry cans on an average per day, on wash-days extra cans ordered

    Scarcity of water because of 1. Government rationing of water 2. Collusive behavior of water vendors 3. Cutting of certain water points


    Why we chose Kwa Jeunga and not Kibera – scope of the project

    a. Huge diversity within the slums – some people have access to some bathrooms, some don’t have any access at all

    b. Discuss role of men and women in their showering habits

    c. Income discrepancy between Kibera and Kwa Jeunga – KJ seems a lot more wealthier (relatively) compared to Kibera, so it seems more plausible that people would be more willing to pay

    Price - mostly standard everywhere 5 KSH for cold water, 10KSH for hot water

    Heating - also seems to be an issue with most people here - especially in the cold winter season, like right now

    Plots - Some had only toilets and not bathrooms, some had bathrooms and not toilets. If a bathroom is present, they would use it most definitely. Usage depends on the status of employment. Also depends on the distance of the bathrooms from their homes. What impacts whether people choose to stay on the plot 1. Facilities 2. Neighbours 3. The nature of their employment (or not)

    GOING BACK TO THE AGENDA, we summarize:

    1. Determine need – Our first week’s findings demonstrated need, but true need to be determined by talking to more people and more kinds of people in the area. More work in this department needs to be done, but it seems like we’re on the right track!

    2. Determine features – connecting to more people here to establish a base and their trust, and genuinely assessing features to be added to the shower. E.g. heating, over-head shower, etc

    3. Determine implementation

    a. Strategy – more landowners, operators, organizations and schools,

    basic materials testing

    b. Challenges – lack of water,

    lack of reliable pumps,

    social incentives needed to contribute,

    lack of space,

    unemployment and thus unaffordability within people


    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Showergy Meeting Agenda

    Hi team!

    Here's the agenda for the meeting this weekend. Feel free to start commenting and/or adding stuff to it if need be!

    1. Determining the real need for showers - we shall discuss our findings, general observations, anecdotal evidences, research etc - basically all the raw data that we've been gathering about this question.

    2. If a real need be determined, what features to include and how relevant they would be? Eg. heating (seems to be a major issue here), mirror (?), even the need for a changing room needs to be questioned.

    3. Once the features are determined, how to go about implementing them in terms of materials and technical difficulties, and revamping what tests need to be conducted here based on the observations. We also have some idea about what materials are found here because Michelle and I both went into town (at separate times) and generally found that parts were available. Another important issue to discuss would be how to get the message out into the community in the most effective manner.

    So essentially, it's a three-step process: 1. Determine need 2. Determine features 3. Determine implementation strategy

    Mkuru Kwa Njenga Visit 2

    Today, Lindsay and Dave (more Sanergy people) dropped us off at Kwa Njenga where we had a chance to talk to Daniel and Daves (both youths from the Amusha Youth Group) again. After showing us their biocenter again, we were able to talk to them and Stephen (another youth) about what they think about showers. From their perspective, we were able to learn more about what they feel are important features. Culturally, they think women would like a changing room or somewhere so they don't have to walk so far. They definitely think that it is hard for women to shower when they have guests or have other children home because it is hard to make them leave the house. However, their main concern with our project comes back to water drought again.

    The main issue that they brought up was water...they were saying that these past three days have been a shortage of water for them in which the government rations how much water they get and what days they get them. Sometimes they don't get water for a few days (around 3 or so) and they have to get it from one of the 3 or 4 water points. So they took us to see a few water vendors and the water bank (one of the local points) where the water vendors all connect their pipes to. Apparently all of the water vendors in the village know each other well (brothers or from the same tribe originally) and know how to cut off water so that people in certain areas can't use the water or have to go really far away to get water.

    Also, they told us that they would be able to take us door to door to talk to some of the people and then possibly let us talk to landowners and other groups in a forum next weekend if we were willing. What do you guys think? What do you think we should approach them? We have some ideas but would love to hear more. 

       After that, they took us to Viet Nam (another neighboring area in the Mkuru slum) where they showed us ComCleen Center, a community based center that was funded by a French organization and is currently being constructed by the Umande Trust. It was crazy to see what they were building there. Literally, they were being runned by the community itself where the community got together and shared the funds amongst the group. Right now, they have a biocenter which wasn't too unique in which it was a circular structure with several toilets and a shower (separated by gender). The cost was the same as others at 3 shillings for toilet and 5 shillings for showers (but i think it was 6 shillings for boiled water baths) Similar to other biocenters and other places that we saw in Kibera, the showerheads were also not functional in which the pumping was not built and they couldn't pump hot water in (no electricity). Water apparently for them was not a problem ( they had a 10,000L tank) which they directly buy from the vendors. They were able to sell the water to the people at a monthly cost as well.

    However, there was more to the center in which
    1. they were already reusing the biogas  produced from converting the wastes in the toilets to power stoves (that they would let people boil their water on and have a warm shower)
    2. (this is the craziest aspect) there was a Dutch engineer who was hired by the Umande Trust who was trying to build a sewage treatment with a full on system going letting the water going through multiple chambers, filter afterwards and an aeration pond at the end. it was crazy that they were building it! (attached to this blog are pictures of their spec for what they are planning on building).

     After that, we were able to talk to two of the women there who lived around there. One of women lived nearby to the biocenter and was telling us about how she would love to use the biocenter to shower but money was a major issue for her. It's also awkward for her to walk over with a towel and would love a place to change before showering... she was also telling us how it was a long process to heat water in which it was costly to get water and boil the water before taking a bath. It also takes time to clean up the water after bathing in their house.

    Another lady that we had talked to told us how she valued showers but she was also affiliated with the youth organization (in which she was once part of one of the members). She told us that she feels that it would be beneficial to the community.

    So after taking us around, Daniel and Daves were talking to us about what are important them. I think it would be great to work to with them if possible. The idea that I wanted to make sure to let them know was that we wanted to understand their culture and share ideas with them. I am not sure if we are taking the right approach but I wanted to confirm that the EWB mission is to understand the community and let them build whatever we think of...and have sort of a dialogue rather than in the case of Sanergy which is selling the idea to them. They seemed to be open to talking to us but don't want us to take advantage of them (which i completely agree).

    Anyways, other ideas and problems that were brought up include
    1. their tank problem where they aren't able to store water during those 2-3 days when they don't have water... i suggested maybe we can think of a low cost way for them to make durable tanks ...apparently bricks and stones are hard to get here and are costly...transportation is apparently also hard here...but interestingly enough, the neigborhood houses are all built from metal (mostly looks like corrugated metal)
    2. sewage water...what can we do to treat it?
    3. how can we help with the water problems?

    Plan for tomorrow:
    - talk to more people in Kwa Njanga
    - look at other biocenters

    Plan for saturday:
    -reevaluate and take some samples to run some tests with the soil 
     Water bank
     Comcleen Center
     biogas stove
     nonfunctional shower
     drainage for the shower

    (the circular figure is the biocenter and the rest is the layout for what they want to add for filtration)