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Wednesday 6 March 2013

Building a strawbale urinal at Boiling Wells in St Werburghs

The sun came out yesterday and the temperate reached double figures (hurray!), so it was time to get things moving at the St Werburghs City Farm's Boiling Wells site.

On Tuesdays, I work with four young people doing construction-type projects and have been doing so for a term. They're a good bunch and we get a lot done too! Three have been referred by their schools, whereas the fourth is now at college and volunteers to come down. He told me that since he started his college have been much happier with his work, which is great to hear.

We've worked on a few projects, including making doorframes for the roundhouse and also constructing a new window frame from larch timber (you can see that post here:

The final project has been the biggest though; designing and building a strawbale urinal building from scratch.

For a while now, the only toilets at Boiling Wells have been the compost loos, but these don't really benefit from getting too wet so it's good for some wee to go elsewhere. However, going behind a tree obviously isn't a good option when children are running about the place, as they sometimes are!
There's another reason for the strawbales too. Apparently, urine is a great compost activator, being very nitrogen-rich. I've also read and heard that male urine is better for this than female, but I'm not sure why. Some say it's less acidic but I can't vouch for that. You can read about another place using straw soaked in urine as an activator here:

The group have constructed the building from timber. First, we assembled frames for the wall panels using halving joints. We then fixed on lapboards to clad the wall. The boards at the bottom are thicker to stop people kicking them out.

Then, yesterday, it was time to put it all together! We had help from my friend Simon and managed to get all the walls and the urinal trough made. Next week the roof will be fitted and, hopefully, a screen put in front of the door.

 The urinal works by putting the strawbale in a kind of trough made of thick plastic sheet and open on one side with a space in the wall behind it. People wee on the strawbale and then, when it needs to be changed, the plastic can be lifted up so that the bale rolls out into a space behind the building. It can then be pulled out, put onto an adjacent compost heap and replaced with a fresh bale.

Fixing the panels to the supporting posts 

Putting in noggins to fix the recycled plastic splash guard to

Digging the postholes

Putting the first wall up

Fitting the other walls

 Ready for a strawbale!

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