New school toilets could transform Sri Lanka’s construction industry

27 September 2023 10:32

Greater Geneva Bern

Supporting partner

Lausanne - The Laboratory of Construction and Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) is building toilet facilities at a school that could pave the way to a successful industrial restructuring of the construction industry in Sri Lanka. The prototype is based on 20 years of research.

Paolo Tombesi, Director of the Laboratory of Construction and Architecture (FAR) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), and scientist Milinda Pathiraja have completed a groundbreaking construction project at the visiting fellow’s old high school in Kandy, central Sri Lanka. Their construction of two toilet facilities is designed to demonstrate the industrial development potential of architectural design. Their prototype draws on 20 years of joint research.

If planned strategically, the design of such infrastructure “can be used as an opportunity to showcase and disseminate innovation and introduce practice-based triggers for a much-needed revival of local building culture”, commented Pathiraja in an EPFL statement. The project also aims to “cultivate new, economically sustainable and ecologically-minded building 'traditions' for countries subject to urbanization pressure, limited raw materials and financial constraints”.

The researchers avoided the use of non-sustainable building materials that are delivered through global supply chains, such as glass and aluminium, as well as materials that are not available locally, such as clinker. They also wanted to illustrate how construction policy-making and sustainability result in value creation at different ends, for example, using ferro-cement vaulted rooves. 

To access this value, the industry needs concrete examples and prototypes “capable of showing both the technical worth and the economic feasibility of these kinds of ideas,” according to Tombesi. These toilets reduce the overall cost to 400 dollars per square meter, including sanitary appliances. “And given the need for this type of program across the country, the lessons we learned are likely to be taken up by others.” ce/mm 

Supporting partner

Swiss Pavilion Digital