I'm going potty!

Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
rural skills centre www.orchardbarn.org.uk

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, March 25, 2012

Volunteering on site at Orchard Barn means getting involved in traditonal skills. Lots of cobbing activity was going on but I was delighted with my project. My brief was to build a compost toilet using sweet chestnut roundwood. Great! I was even handed a set of plans! As they only showed the dimensions, I drew up a design and started work to erect something resembling a shed with a seating platform and a bucket. 

Soon we'd stripped poles (sourced from just up the road) and had a corner post and a door post dug into the ground. Progress was being swiftly made.

And then we got the question from the blindside  - does the design of this toilet meet building regulations parts M1 & M3 for accessible toilets? 
No, the shed is designed to provide privacy for a bucket with a seat. 
What're the regs?

I am now fully conversant with the building regs for accessible toilets. Note it is not a "disabled toilet" as that would be one that doesn't work. At the same time as building the compost loo, two urinal areas were being built with deadwood screens. One is for standing and the other is for squatting; both collect the nitrogen rich waste onto compost material. Note that this is not male/female. Section 5.7c of part M1 states that if there are separate sex toilet facilities then a cubicle in each must be designed for ambulant disabled users. The notion of trying to fix regulation handles to deadwood screens that would support a 150kg load caused us much laughter - look at the photo of a deadwood screen! In order to negate the legislation requiring additional urinals, they are not labelled by sex but by choice of operator position and can be used as preferred by either sex.  So there.

So back on the compost loo, we took it in turns to dig holes around a frame (thank you Philip for that idea) that marked out precisely where everything had to go. Our plans had changed from a rough shelter to being a millimetre precision building. It had to support precisely positioned grab rails all at exact distances from other objects. The regulations are strict and not negotiable or flexible. This is not easy to achieve with roundwood. Whilst the poles look fairly straight, they are invariably not straight. There is always a kink or a gentle curve and certainly a narrowing along the length. Sawn timber, milled to known dimensions is much easier to work with, but timber in the round is far more attractive, requires less processing to use (i.e. not hewn, sawn or planed), and is stronger by about 50% than it's equivalent sawn timber. 

We kept prepping for several days because we couldn't proceed until the council building control had done the foundation inspection (holes) and the timber inspection. They readily admit that this type of building method is not what they see at all often (ever).  But after answering their questions and appearing competent, we passed the foundation and timber inspection. We could start building in earnest but by this time we were a long way behind schedule. The design was amended, including removing joints that I wanted to practice, and the building design was simplified. It is possible that it was a little bit over-engineered. Tenons that I'd precut were removed and the timbers were mated with nails or screws. Not as satisfying but it did get the job moving and I could declare from time to time that I'd finished another butt joint. Hilarity!

Philip was staying an extra week so I was trying to explain my ideas as I went. I spent every evening drawing plans, looking for evidence that the techniques I was using were recognised and reconciling issues against the regulations. My plans were then redrawn as scale diagrams for submission to building control and included phrases like "earth fast" which is essentially a pole in a hole with rammed backfilled earth. This technique goes back a long long time but isn't one that the building control are familiar with.


I didn't get to finish the structure, we ran out of time having lost a week and a half out of two due to changing plans and building inspections. The photo shows the front with the wide door frame, the wall plates that will support the sloping roof and the back corners in place. I'm hoping that the building is progressing and eventually to see a functioning accessible compost toilet in roundwood. We think that this is the first in the area and probably the country.
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lindaedwards@libero.it on

Just amazing!!!

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