Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   my own flushless urinal
Wednesday, May 3 2006
Ever since seeing flushless urinals in a men's room at Bard College a couple weeks ago, I've been intrigued with the idea. How do they work? Do they smell terrible? It's hard to tell in the context of an industrially-cleaned bathroom whether a urinal stinks or not, but if it had a smell it certainly didn't match the pungence of, say, a bus stop in urban Boston. The technology for these urinals is fairly straightforward. You piss into them and the piss drains away behind a seal and eventually flows into the sewage system completely undiluted. That seal is important because it keeps the rancid urine caught in the U-trap from offgassing back into the room, a process that would soon give that room the fragrance of an unoccupied room in a gutterpunk squat.
In terms of bathroom use, urination is by far my most common function. I can usually spare time from my busy day for the relatively infrequent numero dos, but my tea habit makes me piss so much that having to walk all the way across the house just to properly relieve myself in a toilet is far too much bother. I usually just go into a plastic cup that I keep near the laboratory window and then I fling it out off the deck into the vegetation. When its cold, though, venturing out onto the deck is a drag, and the piss doesn't make it as far as I'd try to have you believe. It would be nice to have a sanitary way to casually piss whenever I want to, within feet of my computer. So for the last few days I've been building my own flushless urinal based around a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Today I got the little PVC parts that form the entrance funnel and guide the urine into the tank. There it simply accumulates until four gallons have been gathered, at which point it drains the "purest" water from the top, leaving solids, sludge, precipitates, and growing crystals behind. I also included a place to attach a vent stack, but later I realized I could just force and gases to escape down that drainage hole; they're prevented from escaping up the entrance funnel by the urine itself, since entering urine is piped down to the bottom of the tank. I don't have any fancy valve system; I'm just counting on the presence of relatively "fresh" urine in the entrance pipe to block the offgassing of nastier urine further on in the process. If I do add a valve system, it might consist of something like a teflon ball seated over a hole.
I didn't have any hose suitable for attaching the drain, but it will be a few days before I've collected four gallons, so I began using my new urinal immediately. I set it up atop a couple of wooden blocks on the laboratory deck so the drain connection wouldn't be squashed, and then, whenever I had to go I just went. If my new contraption doesn't wind up smelling too bad I may figure out a way to actually set it up indoors. This is definitely something that I can only get away with in the laboratory. It is a laboratory, and I see nothing wrong with using it as a place to experiment with such technologies.
One of the reasons to collect urine in this way is that it is very potent stuff chemically, full of nitrogenous compounds useful for everything from horticulture to pyrotechnics (hello NSA spider!). I figure some day when we've all become perfect recyclers in a world devoid of virgin materials, urine will be a precious resource that nobody will be diluting with perfectly good drinking water and flushing away to oblivion.

My new urinal. In the front is the "entrance funnel" where a gentleman is kindly requested to take his aim. At the back is the vent stack, which I will probably seal shut. Underneath is a drain that taps to the four gallon level of the bucket. I had to use rubber seals and PVC parts normally used for outdoor electrical conduit in order to attach the PVC pipe to the bucket, which is made of HDPE. You cannot glue these two different plastics together.

In other news, I mowed the grass for the first time this season. Due to the overall lack of rain this spring, the shorn lawn looked like the scalp of a hair-plug recipient who'd made the mistake of investing in a crew cut. Some investments are good, some are bad, and some just need time to grow.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next