All Tech Considered
9:05 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Everything Old Is New Again: The Toilet-Sink Edition

Originally published on Fri July 12, 2013 10:52 am

This week we featured Latvian designer Kaspars Jursons' solution to help conserve water: the seemingly ingenious "sink-urinal." It's exactly what it sounds like: a sink built on top of a urinal so that the water used to wash hands runs down to the urinal and is used for flushing. Lots of folks were taken by this design.

Our post excitedly anticipated the creation of something that might work for ladies, too. Well, if everything old is new again, then that particular new idea is in fact almost 60 years old. The combination sink-toilet has been around in Japan since 1956, according to Leonard Koren's book, 283 Useful Ideas From Japan. An excerpt of Koren's write-up:

"This system costs less than conventional toilets and comes in eight- and-16-liter sizes and a rainbow of colors. Also available for bathrooms are artificial flushing-sound generations that people can use to cover up the sound of what they're doing without wasting water."

When my husband and I moved to Japan in the late 1980s to live the impoverished graduate student life, our Yokohama apartment had a rather tiny water closet equipped with one of these efficient contraptions. The water you used in the sink to wash your hands collected in the tank (cistern) below, and that's what provided the water to flush.

In one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, this was a rather miraculous design feature, not to mention that it preserved a precious resource — water (though it took a while for us to get used to it). And yes, for you skeptics out there, you are washing your hands with clean water.

So, if you are planning to install a powder room in a really small space, then this design has you set. In fact, one of my Washington, D.C., neighbors did just that, a perfect solution to the challenge of confined urban living.

Unfortunately for Mr. Jursons, the same people that brought us the Walkman and the bullet train and the karaoke machine have him beat on this particular design idea. And, while we are on the subject of bathroom design features, check out this all-in-one faucet and dryer from the British guy who revolutionized vacuum cleaners.

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