24 June 2010   |  
Posted By: Ilana Martin

Easy Latrine Wins IDEA Award!

IDEA Award Winning Easy Latrine

Users and schematics for the award-winning IDE Easy Latrine. Photos courtesy Jeff Chapin and IDE Cambodia.

What do a consumer technology product, an ecologically responsible laundry detergent, and a simple design innovation for an age old product have in common? They were all selected as winners of the prestigious Best in Show Award at the 2010 IDEA Awards for international design excellence.

Latrines are a decidedly unsexy topic, more likely to induce uncomfortable giggles than provoke innovative thinking. People in the developed world take access to sanitation for granted. Yet in most of rural Cambodia, lack of adequate sanitation causes more deaths than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Despite this fact, many villagers view purchasing sanitation equipment as an unnecessary luxury, partly because of the expense and difficulty of installing traditional latrines.

Jeff Chapin, a designer on sabbatical from IDEO worked with our IDE Cambodia team to tackle the problem. The solution? A low-cost sanitation system that villagers could build themselves using cheap, locally available materials. Each latrine costs about $25, and more than 2,500 have already been purchased and installed by villagers.

The award judges appreciated the Easy Latrine’s integration of product design, social strategy, and sustainability. In the end, they decided that excellence in affordable technology deserved equal status with the other two winners, the Slingbox 700U and Method Laundry Detergent with Smartclean Technology™. Judge Anton Andrews, of FrontEDGE Experience Planning for Microsoft Entertainment, said, “We’re choosing all three because it’s a sustainability story. All three tell the same story from different angles. One is cloud computing, the other is behavioral change, and the third is applying design thinking at its best to an extreme problem in another part of the world.”  Industrial Designers Society of America’s Chief Executive Clive Roux explained, “Design works across the spectrum of human needs and issues and can produce excellence at both extremes.”

We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations to Jeff Chapin and the entire IDE Cambodia team on this well-deserved recognition.

The Sanitation Marketing Pilot Program, from which the “Easy Latrine” design resulted, is funded by USAID Cambodia MSME and the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank, and is implemented by IDE.

Learn more:

2010 IDEA Awards Gallery

Fast Company story

Best in Show judges video at fastcodesign.com

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