A trio of industrial design graduates have re-imagined the standard toilet for a competition launched by a U.K. plumbing company. Their winning design: the ergonomically-correct-for-pooping Wellbeing Toilet.

Today's toilets force users to perch upright at a 90-degree angle, but that’s not ideal for health, the designers say. The angle increases the risk of colon cancer and bowel diseases.

Rather than designing a true squat toilet, the team created a hybrid--you step up on the toilet, and as you bring your legs up, you lean into the correct angle.

2013-12-03

Co.Exist

Take A Seat On The Ergonomically Correct Toilet Of The Future

Squatting while on the toilet is better for your health, but Western nations insist on sitting. Now a new toilet design reduces the risk of colon diseases, and could even tell you if you're pregnant.

The average Western toilet looks pretty much like it did when indoor plumbing started to become common in the 1800s, except for the addition of some low-flow gadgetry. But on World Toilet Day, when most attention was focused on the lack of sanitation in the developing world, a few U.K. designers turned to the toilets in their own homes.

A trio of industrial design graduates from Central St Martin’s, Sam Sheard, Pierre Papet, and Victor Johansson, reimagined the standard toilet for a competition launched by a U.K. plumbing company. Their winning design: the ergonomically-correct-for-pooping Wellbeing Toilet.

Today's toilets force users to perch upright at a 90-degree angle, but that’s not ideal for health, the designers say. “The angle increases the risk of things like colon diseases and bowel-related illnesses,” explains Sam Sheard. “Ideally you should squat, but there are negative social connotations because we’re used to sitting down on a toilet, whereas in other cultures, it’s fine.”

Rather than designing a true squat toilet, the team created a hybrid—you step up on the toilet, and as you bring your legs up, you lean into the correct angle. It's similar to hybrids such as the Anglo-Indian toilet still used in India (and inside ancient Russian trains), which allow for both sitting and squatting, depending on preference. But the Wellbeing Toilet aims to change habits, and push users into better posture.

It also analyzes your pee. “It’s what you’d get if you go to the doctor now, and you need to be checked for diabetes or kidney disease and they check things like the phosphates in the urine,” Sheard says. “In the U.K., many people with diabetes are diagnosed late, which adds billions of pounds a year in health costs.” By checking up on users, the toilet aims to help catch diseases earlier.

It could also replace the ubiquitous home pregnancy test. “The industry that’s connected with pregnancy tests has huge costs both financially and environmentally—with resources, manufacturing, plastic packaging, and distribution—if you encompass that within something like a toilet, you can have an impact,” Sheard says.

Eventually, he says, the toilet could also analyze nutritional deficiencies. All of the health feedback could be sent to a smartphone through an app, or could possibly come through more low-tech notifications, like a change in the color of the water in the toilet bowl.

For now, the design is just a concept; the team had just 15 days to work on the project. But though it needs refinement for engineering and manufacturing, the designers say the technology is completely viable. They’ve even included features that allow it to run using gray water. If it does get made, they say, they have a vision for where it might first show up. “People may see it and think, ‘That’s not what a toilet looks like,’” says Sheard. “We talked about putting it into a health environment—like a spa or a gym—so it fits in with other health equipment.”

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9 Comments

  • rubadubdub

    fail. if you have to step up on to it, grandma will break a hip. the seat is so wide, people could fall into it, certainly kids. Can't sit on it with legs spread. can't crawl to it when you need to puke (if you need to, especially if drunk). Fail. fail. fail. fail. fail. What is the upside to this design, I am not seeing it?

  • nilshans

    Bonjour de Paris; Thank you for the excellent pictures. The design looks good. If I can disregard all the excellent ideas and designs, it does not solve our main problem, what are we to do with our excrements? In the not so far away days of our grand fathers, it was not a problem, excrements were collected in out-houses, they used straw and peat instead of water. If I may be nearly offensive, it does not approach the huge crime of our civilization, we are entering into the period of shortage of drinkable water, yet we use 8 liters of drinkable water to evacuate , let us be ambitious, half a liter of urine. To compound the problem and make us look stupid, urine is a very valuable chemical compound, why be so disgusted by it? But bravo and bravo to this beautiful design. By the way where is the daily news paperholder with automatic turn over of the pages? (Ambabelle MPR)

  • Jonathan

    I'm afraid that sitting with your feet propped up is not squatting. The ergonomic squatting position puts the body's full weight on the feet. All infants automatically assume this posture. Yes, I know that the elderly will never be able to squat, but that's no reason to force young, flexible people to behave like old, decrepit ones. A toilet has already been designed that allows the elderly to continue sitting (with or without a footstool) and also allows flexible people to really squat. It's called an "anglo-indian" toilet, and you can see one here: http://naturesplatform.com/ima...

    Learn why genuine squatting is far superior to just elevating your feet at http://www.naturesplatform.com...

  • Washington Nearsider

    Unstated, but obviously possible, is the fact that this toilet could send evidence of your illegal drug use directly to the govt. With the NSA already into your business in a big way, its not a big leap for them to actually be into your 'business' .

  • Macranthunter

    "Today's toilets force users to perch upright at a 90-degree angle" Yeah, no. no they don't. Not even a little. It is sad to see that today's design students have never actually used a common seated toilet. Hint: you are free to lean forward. Most do. Kids. It's time we introduce them to our planet - Earth. It's a nice place. They should live here with us.

  • Zenon Zinonos

    Agreed - if you wish to replicate this position, why not have a 'step' in front of the traditional toilet which would elevate your legs, resulting in the same position. Imagine an elderly position trying to perch on this silly design...

  • kirua

    Leaning forward does not actually bring you in the right position. As studies show that you should be squatting to have an healthier poop which is some how different than just leaning.