Bamboo Composting-Toilet Building Project
I have always had a dream of someday designing and building my home with my own two hands. My father built the majority of the wind and solar powered home I grew-up in and one of the greatest things I have learned from him is that you can teach yourself anything and do anything if you really want to. So I have been looking for a way to gain some hands on experience with sustainable building so that when the time comes I can do it myself without any doubts holding me back. Prior to departure, I had heard from the intern coordinator that there would be the opportunity to help with a community library building project in the town of Mastatal. Based on this notion my ultimate goal for my internship experience at Rancho Mastatal was to spend the summer learning to design and build with a variety of natural materials alongside experienced and passionate sustainable builders.
About 2 months later, after spending the majority of my summer doing every-day farm work which only differed from how I would have spent my summer at home in that the work was surrounded by the tropical rainforest, I realized that I only had one month left to make my goal come to fruition. So I talked to Tyler, one of the semi-permanent residents of the ranch who has been single-handedly working on the community library project, and told him that I really wanted to design and build something from start to finish. He said that he has been trying to find time to build a latrine for his house for a couple years now and asked me if I would like to give it a try despite the limited time we had left. I enthusiastically assured him that I would go full force into making it happen. I then asked one of the other interns Bert, also my friend who had previously expressed interest in building something, if he wanted to be my partner on the project and a few days later we sat down to start designing. From the beginning we both agreed that we weren't going to just do it the quickest and easiest way possible, we wanted to learn how to build with bamboo in the process and we wanted it to be the most beautiful place for shitting on the ranch.
We designed the whole building and got approval within the first 3 days (we were also given a mocking "good luck" because no one believed we could finish in only 1 month), we spent about a week in the wood shop preparing the parts of the building like puzzle pieces, we broke ground and poured the foundation in one day, laid the floor boards in one day, and finished the remainder of the structure in about 2 weeks. Unfortunately, my flight home was 3 days before the internal components of the latrine were functioning but I was still able to have the satisfaction of seeing the building roughly sketched out on paper and seeing it standing in real life.
The entire project took just over 4 weeks and as you can see from the pictures we did not skimp on details. It was an incredibly challenging learning experience for both Bert and I, we learned a lot about ourselves in the process (mostly about patience). Neither of us had ever worked with Bamboo before and had no idea how many problems it was about to give us, but we pushed through and made it work beautifully. During the many hours of back-breaking work it was great to have Bert there to constantly remind me to smile and be positive. During the construction we considered several different names for the building, we often considered making it into a meditation space due to the beauty of the structure, but in the end we decided on the Kakhut (which in Dutch literally means Shitshack).
Special thanks to the many people who took some time to help with the project - especially Tyler, Todd, Bea, Alex, Junior, and Fabio.