Bringing cleanliness and dignity to our low-income communities
Peter Krige and Alex Du Preez have prototyped a pressure-tight device that can be easily fitted to create a shower for homes in underserved communities.
Water is life and sanitation is dignity. But, for some South Africans, these essentials simply do not exist. Now, University of Cape Town engineering graduates, Peter Krige and Alex Du Preez, currently studying design and innovation at the Royal College of Art in London, have created a solution that performs a simple but essential service for low-income communities by equipping them with the means to shower.
The Ekasi Water Cap is a 3D-printed enclosure that can be fitted onto a variety of the low-cost plastic water containers that township residents often use to collect and store water in their homes. Acting as a pressure-tight enclosure, the device transforms locally available parts – a jerry can, plastic piping and a bicycle pump – into a portable pressurised shower unit.
Its design encourages community members to take the cap apart, figure out how it works, put it back together and engage with 3D printing technology. In this way, it reinforces the township tradition of creative problem solving.
Having been selected as one of the 23 Better Living Challenge finalists, Peter explains the need for this type of solution in South Africa: “The Ekasi Water Cap is innovative because it involves joining everyday items together in new ways to provide an essential service. By working with existing township products, we were able to design an affordable tool using the bare minimum of material and energy to achieve the desired outcome – a shower.”
This pioneering solution also hints at the larger idea of equipping people with tools that they can use creatively to meet their own needs rather than handing them off-the-shelf solutions.
Once Peter and Alex had developed a robust design, they held a user-testing workshop with a family in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. As Peter explains: “Products need to be prototyped, tested by end-users and improved. That’s because things constantly change and any solution needs to evolve accordingly. This is why workshops like the user-testing workshop we held in Khayelitsha are so essential to the development of the Ekasi Water Cap as a pioneering solution.”
Following their workshop, Peter and Alex used the test family’s feedback to further refine their design and address other manufacturing issues. “The Ekasi Water Cap could actually be an affordable product and sit along side other commodity plastic goods,” says Peter. “However, the strengths that differentiate it are its value and versatility as a tool and as an educational object. Its educational qualities will allow it to become a point of engagement with communities and help them to forge new directions with us.”
By drawing on the capabilities of township residents, the Ekasi Water Cap can become a platform for other products that work with the system while maximising skill transfer and enterprise opportunities. What’s more, the Ekasi Water Cap encourages low-income households to conserve precious water, which is also time-consuming to collect. “These strengths will allow us to root our brand in the values of sustainability and communicate those values through our workshops and product information,” says Peter.