Välikäimlat leiutatakse endiselt! / The outhouse is still being reinvented!


  • Oliver Tätte




Outhouses are still found, and still in use, in many backyards in rural Estonia. The aim of the graduation thesis Design and construction of a composting dry toilet, recently examined in the native construction programme, was to develop the model of a modern dry toilet from idea to execution.

Simple outhouses appeared in Estonian farms only in the late 19th century. The origins of modern composting toilets can be traced back to the Clivus composting toilet technology developed in Sweden in the 1940s. Outhouse products can also be bought in stores, but enthusiasts might consider building a system by themselves.

Unlike flush toilets, a dry toilet requires neither water nor power. It also does not require above-zero temperatures in order to function year-round. The outhouse constructed for the graduation thesis was designed to be suitable for farmyards, summer-house backyards, and also for sites close to hiking trails and similar points of interest, and even close to graveyards.

The outhouse should consist of an inexpensive compost space that should be easy to empty and maintain, and for more efficient composting, urine should be collected separately. The outhouse should be equipped with functioning ventilation, and with lighting and hygiene solutions. I also aimed to give it a practical and simple form both inside and out.

The architectural form was developed with an eye on functionality, making sure that the design of the outhouse was not too conspicuous. The shape and internal dimensions of the outhouse are determined by the size of the cesspit and the room to move. Environmentally-friendly materials were chosen, while ease of maintenance of the toilet surfaces was also taken into account. Ventilation of the room is enabled via gaps under the roof ridge, covered by insect nets. A washing basin is installed for washing hands. Water for this comes from a canister next to the composting room, brought up using a foot pump. Eaves over the door make the outhouse more convenient. A separate urinal cabin for men, which is also used for emptying the toilet, is to be found at the back of the outhouse. Rather than using a scoop for scattering bulking material, the outhouse uses a crank-activated dosing system.

The composting room, the most complex assembly in the outhouse, comprises a 1000-litre metal-frame IBC container with an inclined plane and openings made under the toilet seat and under the bulking material dosing system, as well as for the ventilation pipe and for emptying the composting room. The emptying and maintenance opening at the back is covered with waterproof plywood hatches. 

Climate and the construction of the cesspit dictate that secondary composting is required in addition to the composting taking place in the composting room of the outhouse that produces the “raw compost”. Hopefully, more and more enthusiasts will take it upon themselves to build outhouses. It is something anyone can manage and use for passing on construction skills to their children as a summer project.

Keywords: dry toilets, composting, construction, latrines


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