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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

This fall 2014 semester four ERE students, Taylor Brown, Sara Chin, Thomas Decker, and Ani Zipkin, traveled to New Orleans with ERE professor Douglas Daley to present their work in the first Humanitarian Engineering session of the Water Environment Federation Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) history. They were also able to represent ESF’s student chapter of New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA), and to learn more about water treatment and wastewater engineering and those involved in leading the industry.

Outside the WEFTEC convention center the students had the opportunity to help reduce flooding in New Orleans by participating in the Recharge, Restore, Revitalize Hollygrove: Conrad Park Green Infrastructure Enhancements project which provided green infrastructure enhancements through the efforts of 100+ student and professional members of WEFTEC. The green infrastructure project involved the construction of one raingarden and two grass bioswales that will reduce local stormwater damage. Collaboratively, the students helped with hand-grading with shovels and metal rakes soil layers, tiling a walkway and patio, and planting/mulching the raingarden. The team worked from 8am to 4:30pm on this service project, recognizing it as a fulfilling experience to contribute to the implementation of a community improvement with like-minded professionals and students.

ERE's Tom Decker at the community service project (from WEF)

ERE’s Tom Decker at the community service project (from WEF)

WEFTEC opening plenary session featured leaving WEF president speaking on our world's future in water use and treatment.

WEFTEC opening plenary session featured leaving WEF president speaking on our world’s future in water use and treatment.

In the WEFTEC convention center, ERE students Taylor (sophomore) and Tom (senior) presented posters in the Humanitarian Engineering session of the conference about a community water supply project in Buena Vista, Honduras and an alternative energy project in Abra Malaga, Peru. The Honduras project was started in 2007 by SUNY ESF’s Engineers without Borders club. Prior to the project, the village relied for their water supply on a precarious system of rubber tubing lying above ground that was prone to leaks and contamination by disease-causing pathogens. The EWB club worked with partners to design, fund, and build a gravity fed water system that provides 45 homes with reliable, potable water. Taylor was able to discuss her poster with professionals whom were also interested in humanitarian engineering and had done similar water supply projects in other countries. The Peru project was started in 2012 by an ESF alumnus and aims to provide 20 homes with electricity through the implementation of solar panels and small scale hydropower. Tom was able to share the efforts of the Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS) club with conference attendees and demonstrate the inspirational work that is the passion of EWB and ESS students.

Networking was great! With attendance of the conference over 20,000 people, Ani, Sara, Taylor, and Tom were able to meet many professionals, students, academics, and practitioners, and these contacts represented regions across the globe. The students participated in technical sessions, learned from practitioners in the enormous exhibition hall, networked at the career fair, and collaborated with NYWEA leaders and the Clarkson University NYWEA chapter. Our ERE students used this trip to learn about innovations in the water industry from the innovators themselves.

Next year’s WEFTEC is in Chicago and the ESF NYWEA chapter hopes to have student members attend for a second year.

SUNY ESF’s ESF Engineers without Borders club and our Engineers for a Sustainable Society club are honored to announce that the entire community of Buena Vista, Honduras now has potable water. This is the result of many partners, including the community of Buena Vista, the local NGO Alfalit, our EWB and ESS clubs, and numerous donors and friends.

In October 2014 we received confirmation from our partner organization Alfalit that the eight tasks designated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in August 2014 are complete. These tasks included finishing the distribution lines, house connections and taps for the borough Los Vegas, replacing/covering up piping, repairing concrete on the dam, putting in a new valve box and establishing a cable crossing, all of which are challenging tasks. We are told by Alfalit that the entire Buena Vista community is jubilant with the potable water supply reaching every home, and they plan a celebration recognizing the project’s completion in November 2014.

Buena Vista community with new water line cable crossing at Prieta Creek.

Buena Vista community with new water line cable crossing at Prieta Creek.

Our EWB club will be filing for project closeout and working on close out assessment measures. The EWB and ESS clubs are also working on designing, funding, fabricating, and installing signage about the potable water project in Buena Vista to recognize the contributors to this project. This project has been an outstanding collaborative effort across 7 years.

Read more on our Buena Vista project!

In August 2014, ERE students Tom J. Decker (Senior) and Taylor Brown (Sophomore) were led by Professor Ted Endreny to Buena Vista, Yoro, Honduras to extend a community water supply project. ESF has been involved with this project since 2007, with plans, funding, and designs coming from ESF’s Engineering for a Sustainable Society club and Engineers without Borders club, and onsite project coordination from a local NGO called Alfalit International. Due to Honduras suffering from political and criminal instability since 2009, ESF students have had limited travel into Buena Vista, with the last visit in the summer of 2011 (see earlier article).

The purpose of this August 2014 trip was to extend the water supply (i.e., dig trenches, lay pipe) into Los Vegas, a hamlet of Buena Vista, evaluate the existing system of storage and conveyance for needed repairs and flow regulation, as well as sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Buena Vista water board, known as the Junta de Agua.

ESF travelers, (left to right): Professor Ted Endreny, Tom J. Decker and Taylor Brown in the village of Buena Vista, Hamlet of Los Vegas, in front of the home of a Buena Vista Junta de Agua officer.

ESF travelers, (left to right): Professor Ted Endreny, Tom J. Decker and Taylor Brown in the village of Buena Vista , Hamlet of Los Vegas, in front of the home of a Buena Vista Junta de Agua officer.

Buena Vista is located in the mountains southwest of Olanchito, Yoro. The villagers are mostly farms growing beans, corn, yucca, coffee, fruits, and raising farm animals such as chickens and pigs. The community water supply project has tapped water from a deep pool in a reach of stream far above the community, and gravity delivers the water through a system of iron and PVC pipes extending several kilometers. Before this community water supply was installed, the Buena Vista villagers did not have a continuous supply of clean, potable water, and their water supply had been from a section of stream exposed to animal and human foot traffic and waste, and conveyed through system of weak rubber hoses lying along the foot and vehicle paths. These hoses were prone to puncture, leaks, and contamination, and villagers suffered from water borne illnesses. Further, the water supply was not reliable, with the hoses primarily bringing water during the rainy season (late summer to early winter) and only to a limited number of homes in the community. The community water supply system implemented by the ESS/EWB club has provided approximately 45 families with a clean, reliable source of water in their households for drinking, bathing, cooking and laundry.

Map of water supply overlaid on a photo of a typical street scene in Buena Vista village. The water source is in the upper left, with pipe (in yellow) leading to a sedimentation tank, distribution tank, and 2 storage tanks. Distribution lines for Hamlet of Las Esperanza (in red) and for Los Rosales (in purple) are already complete. The final distribution lines and taps for 11 homes in the Hamlet of Los Vegas were being implemented during the August 2014 trip.

Map of water supply overlaid on a photo of a typical street scene in Buena Vista village. The water source is in the upper left, with pipe (in yellow) leading to a sedimentation tank, distribution tank, and 2 storage tanks. Distribution lines for Hamlet of Las Esperanza (in red) and for Los Rosales (in purple) are already complete. The final distribution lines and taps for 11 homes in the Hamlet of Los Vegas were being implemented during the August 2014 trip.

The establishment of a Junta de Agua in the community is a standard procedure that is critical for the long-term success of these projects. Giving people in the village leadership roles allows them to look out for their local interests, mobilize others in their community, and through ownership builds a sense of pride and responsibility. This transfer of ownership is a sustainable design concept intended for the community to maintain the system through pay-to-use fees, without being financially or technically dependent on the ESF clubs or Alfalit. Going forward, ESF clubs and Alfalit can partner with the village to undertake major repairs. Fortunately for our ESF clubs, our NGO partner Alfalit has experience establishing Junta de Aguas in other communities, and has helped establish the Junta de Agua in Buena Vista.

The wash area behind the home of an officer in the Buena Vista Junta de Aqua, Hamlet of Los Rosales.  A new water line with tap is filling a tub of water.

The wash area behind the home of an officer in the Buena Vista Junta de Aqua, Hamlet of Los Rosales. A new water line with tap is filling a tub of water.

Alfalit, our NGO partner, considers the Buena Vista community water supply project one of the most challenging in the region due to long distances for distribution lines connecting the three hamlets. Indeed, this project has faced many challenges funding materials and installing the distribution and supply lines. The work season is short, with no road access to Buena Vista during the rainy season, when roads are washed out. Project momentum and funding was lost in 2009 when Honduras faced a coup d’etat and the club was barred from traveling to the country by EWB-USA, so additional fundraising was needed. It is extremely gratifying that fundraising was successful and this August 2014 we were able to get the remaining construction materials into Buena Vista, and pipe installed in newly dug trenches to Los Vegas.


The MOU signed during the August 2014 trip gave more ownership of the project to the village of Buena Vista. The Junta de Agua was formally given the responsibility of collecting monthly fees from the people using the water supply to cover repairs of materials, system operation, maintenance and protection. The MOU also specified the consequences for people who did not pay the monthly fee or disrupted the water supply system. The MOU established that major technical issues with the water supply will be addressed by Alfalit rather than the ESF clubs, but the clubs can be involved in providing support. The MOU explains how Alfalit will supervise the gradual transfer of management of the community water supply to the community. At the signing of the MOU, the villagers expressed their excitement and gratitude to complete this project and to be taking on more responsibility. The villagers of Buena Vista have been empowered to sustain this new community water supply for their future needs and those of future generations.

The signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was signed by the ESS club and EWB club president, the local Alfalit director, and the president of the Junta de Agua.

The signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was signed by the ESS club and EWB club president, the local Alfalit director, and the president of the Junta de Agua.

Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student, Amanda Kullman discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goal numbers four and seven, to improve child mortality rates and to ensure environmental sustainability by providing safe drinking water.

URL: (March 25, 2010)

On March 25th, 2010 CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed Dr. Richard Wukich on his work in Haiti with Potters for Peace in a special called “One Filter, One Life”.  Dr. Wukich spoke  about the importance of providing a water filtration system to the people of Haiti, who were at an increased risk of contracting waterborne illnesses after the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010.  The filters made by Potters for Peace are a mixture of 50% clay and 50% sawdust with small additions of silver.  The particles of silver kill the bacteria in the water passing through the clay, generating water that is safe to drink.  This portable filter can clean 2.5 L/ hour and costs a mere $15 to make.

Water scarcity was already an issue in Haiti prior to the 2010 earthquake and when the disaster hit, the problem reached new levels.  In 2007, it was recorded that Haiti had approximately 1300 m3 of freshwater per capita with that number dropping slightly by 2011 (The World Bank DataBank).  As a water stressed country, effective infrastructure is key to ensuring that what little water there is, is efficiently delivered to the people.  Prior to the event, roughly 50% of the country did not have access to an improved water source and nearly 70% of the population did not have access to potable water of any sort (Water In Crisis).  The quake crippled the nations infrastructure, knocking out many of the main water distribution lines, and making it ever more difficult for people to get water when they needed it most.

For a nation in which 50% of the population lives on less than $1 per day and almost 75%  live on less than $2 per day (Water in Crisis), improving water sources is near impossible without the help of an external organization or donor.  Dr. Wukich and Potters for Peace played an integral role in changing this situation.  At just $15, the clay pots provide an appropriate solution to addressing water contamination.  While a $15 investment may be monumental up front, the product is capable of providing an abundant source of clean water in a very short period of time.  If small communities invest in the filter together, the price per capita becomes more reasonable and the access to clean water increases tremendously.  The product was especially appropriate immediately following the 2010 earthquake because accessing water was not necessarily the critical issue.  Hospitals had access to water, it was simply not clean enough to provide to patients.  The pots dramatically changed that situation and helped save numerous lives.

Potter's for Peace clay filter

Potter’s for Peace clay filter

In terms of where the product falls short of being an appropriate technology, it is difficult to find flaws aside from the cost. As previously mentioned, a $15 up front investment may be monumental if the purchase is made by a a single family.  The cost per capita however, can be decreased if a number of families invest in the technology together.  The required labor, maintenance, design and cultural appropriateness however are far from flawed.  Next to no labor is required to filter the water or to keep the filter functioning at par.  Culturally, there is nothing that points to the filter being inappropriate since the technology is composed of just the pot and a five gallon bucket.  Materials similar to these are readily accessible and consistently used in developing countries, just not traditionally in this capacity.

            Similar to many developing countries, the people of Haiti struggle to obtain an adequate amount of potable water.  Waterborne illnesses such as typhoid, cholera and chronic diarrhea cause more than half of the deaths in the country each year (Water in Crisis).  Contaminated water is one of the leading causes of childhood illnesses and a major contributor to the extremely high infant mortality rate in the country (57 for every 1000 births) (Water in Crisis).  Prior to the quake 16% of child-under-five deaths were attributed to water contamination and that statistic has dramatically increased since the cholera outbreak that was associated with the 2010 earthquake (Clean Water).

The clay filter pots can directly improve the accessibility of potable water and ultimately help achieve Millennium Development Goal number seven, Target C.  While the goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation has technically been met, there is still much that needs to be done.  As previously mentioned, the availability of potable water directly impacts child mortality rates meaning that this technology also contributes to the success of Millennium Development Goal number four.  Improving access to potable water will decrease the incidence of diarreaheal diseases and ultimately improve the child mortality rates.

Per Varkey and Dlamini, “a study aimed at determining the efficiencies of 5 filters, namely, biosand filter-standard (BSF-S), biosand filter-zeolite (BSF-Z), bucket filter (BF), ceramic candle filter (CCF), and silver-impregnated porous pot (SIPP), revealed that SIPP was the most efficient at removing bacteria and hence indicating that it can be an effective household water treatment system (Mwabi et al., 2012).”  This study backs up the work done by Dr. Wukich and the claims made above, that the use of silver impregnated clay pots has the power to drastically improve the access to clean water and can therefore directly improve child mortality rates.


While Potters for Peace have worked extensively to develop the silver impregnated clay pot filters, a company called Vastergaard has worked extensively on developing the LifeStraw line of products.  Similar to the clay pots, this family of prodcuts filters water, improving the quality and potability.  Vastergaard has produced six different LifeStraw products with the LifeStraw 1.0 being the most similar to the product produced by Potters for Peace.

The LifeStraw 1.0 is a 2L water bucket attached to a primary filter, halogen chamber, and a hollow fibre membrane cartridge.   Contaminated water is poured into the water reservoir where it passes through a primary filter.  The water then enters the halogen chamber where it is dosed with chlorine before passing through the hose and membrane cartridge after which it is finally potable (LifeStraw® Family 1.0.).


Vastergaard's LifeStraw 1.0

Vastergaard’s LifeStraw 1.0


While the LifeStraw 1.0 provides the same services as the clay pot filter, the technology is far less appropriate.  The product costs nearly $80 (LifeStraw® Family 1.0.), a price that is far to high for people who make less than a dollar or two each day.  While the labor associated with the product is minimal, educating people how to use the product is more extensive than the education process for the clay pot product.   With the LifeStraw 1.0 there are two taps, only one of which delivers potable water and the filters need to be changed after some time.  Neither of these things are readily apparent and the only way people can become aware of this is through an education program.  In addition, the maintenance costs and labor are more extensive than those associated with the pots.  As previously mentioned, the filter and halogen chamber need to be replaced, creating additional costs and work for the people using the product (LifeStraw® Family 1.0.).  As far as the cultural appropriateness goes, it is difficult to determine whether or not the product is acceptable.  While it nearly resembles a jerry can with a few attachments, the product is not as simple looking as the clay pot and five gallon bucket.  This being said, it may be appropriate but not quite as appropriate as the alternative solution. When finally considering the design, the LifeStraw 1.0 is less appropriate than the filter pot.  The product has numerous components, many of which are inherently advanced technologies even though they provide a simple solution to water filtration.  If ever something on the product were to break, it is not easily identifiable or fixable while the opposite is true for the filter pot.




Clean Water: A Health Essential | Lack of Clean Water in Haiti | International Action. (2014). Retrieved 18 April 2014, from

LifeStraw® Family 1.0. (2014). Retrieved 18 April 2014, from


Water In Crisis – Spotlight Haiti. (2014). The Water Project. Retrieved 18 April 2014, from


World Bank DataBank | Explore . Create . Share. (2014). Retrieved 18 April 2014, from


Varkey, A. J., & Dlamini, M. D. (2012). Point-of-use water purification using clay pot water filters and copper mesh. Water S. A., 38(5), 721-726. Retrieved from


Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Thomas Decker discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (improve maternal health), 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases), and 7 (ensure environmental sustainability).

On April 9, 2014 Engineering for Change (E4C) posted an article titled “Ventilation may matter as much as stoves for fresh kitchen air,” filed under the health and structures section of their website. The article explains the lack of ventilation in indoor spaces throughout the world and how creative ventilation solutions can provide, “…powerful, life-saving effects in developing countries where women and children cook over open wood fires” (Goodier, 2014). Often times organizations who distribute improved stoves disregard ventilation even though poorly ventilated dwellings can have pollution levels more than 100 times higher than accepted. The article summarizes with a brief statement that I believe can have a large impact; “Ventilation does not require a change in cooking habits, or a physical object to be bought or given and it can be highly customized” (Goodier, 2014). The specific issue that the article focuses on is the decreased quality of life that is a result of low quality air indoors. Low quality air is a contributing factor to respiratory illness worldwide and as written in the article, leads to the death of over 2 million people each year (lung cancer, pneumonia, COPD). There is even more validity in the argument that the article makes as seen in a March 2014 update where the World Health Organization listed that over 4 million die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution and more than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia from airborne particulate matter (WHO, 2014). In a specific case, The World Bank lists that in 2012 in Jordan, 77.2% of children under 5 who entered a health clinic had an acute respiratory infection (ARI) (WorldBank, 2014). I believe that ventilation technologies/solutions can have an enormous impact upon these statistices and drastically reduce them in a short period of time. Ventilation would reduce air pollution and directly lead to improved lung and eye function of all members of a household. Ventilation methods are flexible and are appropriate given the implementation strategy. In many cases, there may be no cost to the solution and required labor would come from the homeowners themselves. Ventilation requires no change in culture or cooking habits and the design can be creatively formed to reduce maintenance or ease of construction. Maintenance would be relatively low, with cleaning of the pathway as necessary.

On a broader scale, ventilation can help attain four different Millenium Development Goals through reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability. In low and middle income countries there is an appreciable population attributable fraction of 36% that are affected by indoor air pollution which connects to the need for ventilation to improve the four above mentioned categories (Mihelcic, 2009). Ranked fourth out of the top ten risk factors contributing to burden of disease in 2000, indoor smoke from solid fuels can be alleviated by creating a passage within a home to allow for smoke to escape (Mihelcic, 2009). The idea and concept of ventilation technologies will encourage circulation of air back into the environment and reduce greenhouse gas and particulate matter within a home. Mollie (2013) describes in her study how even when an improved stove was implemented, the air quality decreased by 10-30 % because of a lack of ventilation. Her research continued by concluding that with ventilation, carbon monoxide and very small particulate matter could be reduced by 50%.

An alternative technology to solely ventilation which improves air quality is an improved stove. Improved stoves have the capacity to produce heat efficiently, reduce fuel usage, and reduce indoor air pollution. By burning hotter and more efficiently, improved stoves burn cleaner and emit less particulate matter (Mihelcic, 2009). Instead of being considered more or less appropriate than ventilation solutions, improved stoves should work alongside ventilation. Types of improved stoves vary with some requiring a higher capital cost, but an improved stove is relatively inexpensive. Most stoves can be implemented immediately upon purchase and require little labor unless the homeowner prefers to build his/her own. Over time a stove needs to be maintained and cleaned to ensure combustion efficiency. Designs vary and some examples are the rocket stove, lorena stove, improved plancha, Ghana wood, and mud stove. However, improved stoves have the tendency to be neglected after installation because of cultural issues and the required change of cooking habits. In order to encourage success in implementation, culture is a primary issue to consider.

Figure 1 - This time series shows the the time that women spend in kitchens and how important ventilation is (DEMAND, Fall 2013).

Figure 1 – This time series shows the the time that women spend in kitchens and how important ventilation is (DEMAND, Fall 2013).



Figure 2 - A smoke hood design to increase ventilation (DEMAND, Fall 2013).

Figure 2 – A smoke hood design to increase ventilation (DEMAND, Fall 2013).


Figure 3 - A lorena stove design to improve air pollution through controlled combustion and ventilation (Mihelcic, 2009).

Figure 3 – A lorena stove design to improve air pollution through controlled combustion and ventilation (Mihelcic, 2009).


Figure 4 - A rocket stove design that improves heat efficiency but lacks ventilation improvement (Mihelcic, 2009).

Figure 4 – A rocket stove design that improves heat efficiency but lacks ventilation improvement (Mihelcic, 2009).


Goodier, R. (2014, April 9). Ventilation may matter as much as stoves for fresh kitchen air. Engineering for Change.

Mihelcic, J. (2009). Field Guide to Environmental Engineering for Development Workers. Reston: American Society of Civil Engineers.

Ruth, M. (2013). Kitchen 2.0: Design Guidance for Healthier Cooking EnvironmentsI. International Journal For Service Learning in Engineering Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship, 151-169.

WHO. (2014, March). Household Air Pollution and Health. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from Media Centre:

WorldBank. (2014). ARI Treatment. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from Data – The World Bank:



Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Erin Jackson discusses solutions to help reach the Millennium Development Goals of developing a global partnership for development, reducing childhood mortality, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, as well as achieving universal primary education.

On December 16, 2013, Time Magazine published an article entitled, “After a Long Delay, Lebanon Finally Says Yes to Ikea Housing for Syrian Refugees”. Ikea is partnering with the U.N refugee agency (UNHCR) to create refugee housing. The design is flat packed, weighs less than 220 pounds and takes four hours to assemble (Figure 1).

Figure 1 show the interior of the Ikea design (A. Baker, 2013).

Figure 1 show the interior of the Ikea design (A. Baker, 2013).

It provides private, spacious living quarters outfitted with solar lighting to refugees. The goal of the project was to conduct several pilot tests prior to putting the design to work for Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. However, Lebanon was reluctant to grant permission for these more permanent structures, fearing they would increase the refugee’s stay. It took 6 months of lobbying to persuade the Lebanese government to allow the Ikea shelters to be built. Now that Ikea and the UN have been granted permission, they can address the issue of providing housing for the 125,000 Syrian refugees living in Lebanon without adequate shelter.

A BBC News Article entitled “Syrian conflict: Refugee life inside Lebanese camps” corroborated some of the statistics provided by the Time Magazine article. Both reported that the population of Lebanon had increased by 25 percent since the influx of Syrian refugees. A peer reviewed journal article out of the Forced Migration Review stated that based on official numbers alone (excluding unregistered refugees), Syrians make up 10 percent of the 4.2 million people living in Lebanon (J. Loveless, 2013). By the end of the 2013 they project this official number to be up to 20 percent. With such a high incidence of unregistered refugees, the 25% statistic reported by Time Magazine and BBC News is proven to be reasonable. The Time Magazine Article also asserted that 2 million Syrians have fled since the conflict started in 2011. This number, as of December 2013 is confirmed by the UNHCR website. However, the Time Magazine article lead readers to believe that prior to approving the Ikea shelters, refugees were not living in camps in Lebanon, but scattered throughout the country. According to the BBC report and interviews, 10,000 to 22,000 Syrian refugees have moved into the Sabra and Shatila camps, originally established for Palestinian refugees. These camps are unofficial and essentially urban slums. Other refugees, as suggested by the article in Time, are scattered about the country. The appropriateness of the Ikea shelter design varies for different metrics. In terms of cost, the technology may not be appropriate. Currently the price of one housing unit is $1,000. Without UN and Ikea funding, refugees would not be able to access this technology. Once the shelters have been made, they are easily constructed in four hours. With minimal labor required for construction, camps can quickly be constructed and destructed, adding to the appropriateness of the technology. In addition, without maintenance, the shelters are projected to last 3 years, while the average tent lasts only 6 months. This means that the well-designed shelters may save relief agencies money in comparison to replacing quickly worn out tents. However, since the materials are not easily accessible making repairs or conducting maintenance on the structure would be difficult for refugees. Attention to the cultural appropriateness of the shelter could have been increased. Just as the Lebanese government is worried about a prolonged stay for the Syrians, refugees too, fear remaining permanently stuck in Lebanon. While more comfortable shelters and official camps might improve the living conditions, they could increase fears of an extended displaced existence. In addition, there are many Syrians who refuse to register with the UN because doing so might place them on a list of “defectors” and risk the safety of relatives remaining in Syria. Neither the Ikea shelter nor the official camp will serve such individuals. The design itself, while innovative, may not be appropriate in serving the refugees. The light penetrating foam technology and solar powered lighting may be too unfamiliar to refugees to be comfortable.

The Ikea shelters can help develop a global partnership for development (Millennium Development Goal # 8). The Swedish company is partnering with the United Nations to provide the shelters in Lebanon for Syrian refugees. In this way, the project targets the goal of working with the private sector to make new technologies available to developing countries. The Ikea shelters will also reduce childhood mortality (Millennium Development Goal #4). Half of the Syrian refugees are children (UNHRC). In their current cramped conditions, they lack proper sanitation and crowding increases the potential for the outbreak of epidemics. Children are among the most susceptible to fatalities resulting from these diseases, but the shelters would also reduce the burden of disease on the population as a whole. Thus the project would address Millennium Development goal #5, combat malaria and other diseases. Finally, The Time Magazine article stated that the solar lights in the shelters would allow children to continue their studies even after dark, helping to achieve universal primary education (Millennium Development Goal #2). Humanitarian and Medical Challenges of Assisting New Refugees in Lebanon and Iraq, an article published in the Forced Migration Review, emphasizes the decentralized nature of refugee populations as the main difficulty in providing health care services and other aid. In Lebanon, Syrian refugees are scattered in 1,000 municipalities across the country. If refugees were together in a centralized location, living in safer conditions (provided by the shelters) epidemics could be predicted, tracked and reduced (Sa’Da & Serafinia, 2013). Therefore, a centralized camp of Ikea shelters would allow relief workers to address the issues of combating diseases and reducing childhood mortality.

Another design for a refugee shelter has been created by Abeer Seikaly, a Jordanian-Canadian architect (Green Prophet). It is a woven cloth structure that is highly mobile. Outfitted with solar panels, a water tank on the roof, and internal pockets for storage, the design caters to the needs of displaced peoples (Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2 shows the exterior of the woven shelter design (Green Prophet).

Figure 2 shows the exterior of the woven shelter design (Green Prophet).




Figure 3 illustrates the water heating and storage capacity of the woven shelter design (Green Prophet).

Figure 3 illustrates the water heating and storage capacity of the woven shelter design (Green Prophet).


No cost has been published for these structures, but it is likely that the woven materials would cost less than the Ikea foam. The reduction of cost would make this product more accessible to refugees with limited resources. To construct the shelter, refugees would weave together the cloths and supports. This time and labor demand of the construction process would be comparable to that of the Ikea structure. It is possible that the fabric would wear out sooner than the Ikea foam material, requiring patching maintenance or replacement. The woven aspect of the design, as opposed to the modular snapping panels of the Ikea shelter, is more appropriate for people the Syrian culture. The thermo-siphoning water system of the woven design might be complicated for refugees to reestablish each time they move their tent. But, if the users are properly taught the principles of the system, the idea of heating and moving water by the sun’s energy is very appropriate.



Abu Sa’Da, C., & Serafini, M. (2013). Humanitarian and Medical Challenges of Assisting New Refugees in Lebanon and Iraq. Forced Migration Review, (44), 70-73.

Baker, A. (2013, December 16). After a Long Delay, Lebanon Finally Says Yes to Ikea Housing for Syrian Refugees. Time Magazine.

Collapsible woven refugee shelters powered by the sun. (2014, March 6). Green Prophet. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Loveless, J. (2013). Crisis in Lebanon: camps for Syrian refugees?. Forced Migration Review, (43), 66-65.

Syrian conflict: Refugee life inside Lebanese camps. (2014, April 3). BBC News.



Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Cambria Ziemer discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals 4, 6, and 7.

The news article “An analysis of combustion from a top-lit up-draft (TLUD) cookstove” reported in the second volume of the Journal of Humanitarian Engineering, which was published in 2013, discusses the design of a new type of stove and compares this stove to a traditional three stone fire.  This stove reduces both fuel consumption and harmful emissions.  An additional benefit of this stove is that remaining biomass after burning (biochar) can be added to soil as a carbon additive (Birzer et al., 2013).  The stove works by filling the fuel chamber with biomass and lighting it from the top, which can be seen in Figure 1.  As the biomass is heated, it is separated into charcoal and volatiles.   This stove works as a gasifier, where the volatile gases produced through biomass decomposition combust with inflowing air to form the flame.  Pots are placed on top of the chimney for cooking, as seen in Figure 2. This stove burns fuel more efficiently than a three stone fire and reduces the amount of particulate matter and carbon monoxide in the surrounding air.  However, researchers found that proper fuel preparation is necessary for efficient burning and that this stove can increase carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions due to such efficient burning (Birzer et al., 2013).  This article addresses the specific issue of the poor quality of indoor air caused by excessive smoke and incomplete burning from traditional cooking methods.  Indoor air pollution causes 3.8 million premature deaths per year and is the leading cause of death in children under 5 (WHO, 2014).  In addition, inefficient use of fuel increases the amount of biomass being collected, which in turn contributes to deforestation and ecosystem degradation.  Thus, there is a need for more efficient and safe stoves in areas where traditional three stone fires are still being used.   The technology discussed in this article improves both problems by using a method of cooking that reduces particulate matter in the air around the stove, which can improve human health, and also requires less fuel than a traditional fire, lessening the toll of biomass collection on the environment.  This technology is appropriate in terms of cost because it can be constructed from recycled materials, such as paint or bean cans (Birzer et al., 2013).  The labor required to construct this stove is also appropriate because it requires simple tools and no specialized skills or equipment, so any family that collects the materials can also build the stove.  The labor involves puncturing the cans so they contain air vents as well as attaching the chimney, lid, and fuel chamber together in a secure fashion.  This stove requires very little maintenance.  The fuel chamber will need to be emptied on a regular basis since charcoal builds up inside.  If any piece of the stove breaks, it can be replaced using similar recycled materials that were used to construct the original stove, which should be available locally on short notice.   The design of this stove can be altered based on culture, to accommodate for the usual cooking pot size and cooking height (chimney height can be increased).  If a culture requires multiple pots cooking simultaneously, this stove is not appropriate unless a family constructs several to use.  Acceptance of this stove has been slow, even in areas where the need is high, due to hesitation from local users. Since the flame is not visible or as large as a traditional cooking fire, some users are not convinced it will work as well and are reluctant to use it.  In addition, this stove may reduce the time spent collecting biomass fuel, but the fuel needs to be properly bundled or condensed to small, round pellets for proper air movement in the fuel chamber.  This extra step prior to use discourages users who do not prepare fuel prior to use in their culture (Harper, 2013).  The design of the stove is fairly appropriate, as it is small and can be adjusted based on the availability of local materials.


The combustion process of a top lit updraft stove (Higgins et al., 2013).

The combustion process of a top lit updraft stove (Higgins et al., 2013).

Assembled top lit updraft stove (Birzer et al., 2013).

Assembled top lit updraft stove (Birzer et al., 2013).

This article addresses broader context areas described by several Millennium Development Goals including reducing child mortality, combating diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability.  Improving indoor air quality will improve the health of children by reducing particulate matter in the air which can cause pneumonia.  This will reduce child mortality as children spent much of their early childhood with their mothers near the kitchen preparing food.  Adult health will also be improved and reduce the number of preventable diseases caused by indoor air pollution, such as lung cancer.  In addition, reducing harmful emissions and the amount of biomass collected from an ecosystem promotes environmental sustainability.  The new stove in this article impacts the context area of human health by immediately eliminating negative effects of open fires while still allowing families to cook meals as necessary.  Families will be able to enjoy cooking and not worry about their health if they were to construct a stove using this model.  Martin et al. (2013) also found a correlation between the use of the top lit updraft stove and improved health, especially for children in Uganda.  However these researchers found that this stove was mostly accepted for its fuel efficiency and economic benefits, rather than health benefits.


Another technology that has been used to improve indoor air quality is the rocket stove.  This stove is also appropriate in terms of cost and labor, but generally materials are not recycled for this stove, but can still be acquired locally.  The rocket stove can be made of brick or ceramics combined with sheet metal to form the combustion chamber (Mihelcic et al., 2009).  There is very little maintenance involved for the rocket stove, a similar time commitment to the top lit updraft stove.  However, the rocket stove has higher emissions than the top lit updraft stove and the remaining biomass after burning cannot be added to soil.  This stove may be more culturally appropriate in areas where sticks are primarily used for fuel, since the top lit updraft stove requires fuel preparation into pellets (Anderson, 2011).  The design of the rocket stove allows for increased heat to be directed at the pot and may be more appealing to users since there is a large flame visible to show the stove is working properly (Mihelcic et al., 2009).




Anderson, Paul (2011). TLUD in 2011.  Biomass Energy Foundation, Presentation at 2011 ETHOS Conference.


Birzer, C., Medwell, P., Wilkey, J., West, T., Higgins, M., Macfarlene, G., et al. (2013). An analysis of combustion from a top-lit up-draft (TLUD) cookstove. Journal of Humanitarian Engineering2, 1-8.


Harper, Logan (2013).  Cooking in Kampala.  George Washington University, School of Public Health.


Higgins, M., MacFarlane, G., Read, M., West, T., Wilkey, J., et al. (2013).  Cooking stoves for the developing world.  The University of Adelaide.


Martin, S. L., Arney, J. K., Mueller, L. M., Kumakech, E., Walugembe, F., & Mugisha, E. (2013). Using formative research to design a behavior change strategy to increase the use of improved cookstoves in peri-urban kampala, uganda. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(12), 6920-6938.


Mihelcic, J., Fry, L., Myre, E., Phillips, L., Barkdoll, B, et al., (2009). Field Guide to Environmental Engineering for Development Workers.  ASCE Press.


World Health Organization (2014).  Household Air Pollution and Health. World Health Organization Fact Sheet N°292.


Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Deanna Kreinheder discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 7

The news article “A new loo” written by Julianna Fleming is found in Berkeley Engineering’s February 2013 issue of Innovations.  It explores a new sanitation technology invented by Kara Nelson and Temitope Ogunyoku that turns human waste into “safe sludge”, the pHree Loo.  The mixture of urine and feces creates ammonia which becomes a disinfectant as the pH increases with the addition of lime.

The article opens with the compelling statistic that nearly forty percent of the world’s population do not have access to modern toilets.  A joint monitoring program by UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO) reported that some 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation amenities and hundreds-of-millions do not have access to safe drinking water.  These occurrences are not unrelated as poor sanitation often leads to water contamination.

The contamination of drinking water is often dealt with by disinfecting the water but as long as there are humans needing drinking water, there will be human excrement as a possible source of contamination.  Pit latrines fill-up eventually and only so much land can be dedicated to new sites, what happens to the excrement then?  Despite its general reputation, the only real issue with excrement is any harmful pathogens it harbors.  It would seem more efficient then to disinfect the waste before it gets into the environment, no matter what its destination.  Whether the safe sludge ends up in agricultural fields or thrown in an open lot, it’s better than the untreated sludge that still ends up there in this imperfect and real world.

The prototype seemed to be made almost entirely of plastic with PVC piping for the hand cranked mixing mechanism.  The intention is that the disinfected solution will go to a processing facility.  While this extension of the design could be costly, the fundamental technology is not.  Labor requirements are minimal and although the moving parts may elicit maintenance, parts should be cheap, readily found and simple to repair.  The design does not seem as if it would conflict with cultural practices, however, specific problems may arise which would warrant modifications to be made.

Sustainable treatment of human excrement can have a positive impact on the MDGs both directly and indirectly.  It can decrease contamination of drinking water thereby increasing access to safe drinking and decreasing water-transmitted disease.  If waste can successfully and sustainably be turned into a resource, it will be a win-win.

Vinneras et. al. (2003) studied the addition of urea to fecal matter as a form of disinfection.  They found that ammonia was produced in addition to an increase in pH.  They concluded that urine was an adequate disinfector reducing incidence of E. coli and Salmonella.

A group of engineers including Karl Linden created another toilet that would disinfect human feces.  Their design, Sol-Char, uses concentrated solar power to burn feces thereby disinfecting it and creating a byproduct called biochar.  The biochar has the advantage that it can probably be applied directly for agricultural purposes.  While this solution also turns human waste into a resource while removing pathogens from the environment, it is a more demanding design.  At this point it is not ready for application it is still very large and expensive.  It requires solar radiation to pass through cables and therefore it is more likely to have issues with safety, additional cost, maintenance, and labor.  As of now the pHree loo is a more appropriate technology to address MDGs 4 and 7 in the developing world.


pHree loo

pHree loo







Fleming, Julianna. “A new loo.” Innovations. Berkeley Engineering, Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.


“Introduction.” Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. unicef, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.


Mead, Derek. “This Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Poop for Public Health.” Motherboard. N.p., 14 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.


Vinneras, B, A Holmqvist, E Bagge, A Albihn, and H Jonsson. “The potential for disinfection of separated faecal matter by urea and by peracetic acid for hygienic nutrient recycling.” Bioresource Technology 89.2 (2003): 155-61. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <;.



Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Jonathan Rice discusses solutions to help reach Millenium Development Goal 4.


The news article “Carey Healy leads by aiming his Engineers Without Borders chapter at a serious childhood killer” reported by The Syracuse Post-Standard on April 27, 2014 discusses a latrine project being started by the Syracuse professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders to build new improved latrines for six schools in a school district in the Palajunoj Valley of Guatemala near the city of Xela. In the article Stan Linhorst states that there isn’t reliable water at the village and that there is little access to improved latrines at the schools there which is a reflection of how 89% and 72% of rural residents in Guatemala have access to improved water sources and improved sanitation respectively (The World Bank Group). The improved latrines will help improved sanitation and reduce incidence of childhood diarrhea by providing improved sanitation for defecation in addition to hand-washing stations to prevent the spread of disease. While they have not chosen any design choices yet, Lawrence Healy noted three different potential designs, including a ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, a composting toilet, and a pour flush toilet. The VIP latrine would likely be the most culturally appropriate choice as it would be the most similar in terms of use and maintenance as the current basic latrines that the schools have. Additionally, it would also be the most appropriate in terms of cost and maintenance as it would likely cost the least out of any of the improved latrine designs (including composting, pour-flush, and VIP latrines) and be the easiest to maintain. Overall the design is fairly simple, consisting of a latrine pit with a pipe that ventilates noxious gases and traps flies to prevent them from spreading disease.


Improved latrines at a school such as this project can help reduce child mortality (Millennium Development Goal #4); 88% of all diarrhea is caused by unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene (Mihelcic, 2009) which improved latrines will help fix by providing a sanitary place for defecation in addition to hand washing stations that will help prevent children from spreading infectious diarrhea through skin to skin contact. Daniels, Cousens, Makoae, and Feachem (1990) discuss how access to ventilated improved pit latrines in Lesotho led to a 24% reduction of childhood diarrhea from a rural community there by providing improved sanitation facilities. An alternative to ventilated improved pit latrines would be a pour flush toilet which is flushed using a bucket of water and has a pipe in which a water seal is created to prevent gases from coming up from the waste and flies from breeding in the waste. This solution is less appropriate than using a VIP latrine because it would be more costly, would likely require more maintenance, especially if the pipe broke, would be a more complicated design, and wouldn’t be as culturally acceptable because it would require the residents to learn to flush the toilets in addition to learning to wash their hands. Labor necessary for the pour-flush latrine, however, would be about the same.


Figure 1- Schematic showing a regular pit latrine versus a VIP latrine (courtesy of

Figure 1- Schematic showing a regular pit latrine versus a VIP latrine (courtesy of

Schematic of a pour-flush latrine (courtesy of

Schematic of a pour-flush latrine (courtesy of


Daniels, D., Cousens, S., Makoae, L., & Feachem, R. (). A Case-Control Study of the Impact of Improved Sanitation of Diarrhoea Morbidity in Lesotho. Bulletin of the World Health organization68, 455-463.


Linhorst, S. (2014, April 27). Carey Healy leads by aiming his Engineers Without Borders chapter at a serious childhood killer. Post-Standard.


Mihelcic, J. R. (2009). Project Motivation: Public Health and the Role of Engineers. Field guide to environmental engineering for development workers water, sanitation, and indoor air. Reston, VA: ASCE.








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