PPlanter Urinal, Sink, + Planter!




Introduction: PPlanter Urinal, Sink, + Planter!

The PPlanter is a rapidly deployable, reconfigurable public urinal and sink that uses modular biofilters to treat urine and wastewater. A network of sensors for automated monitoring and a responsive web application enable public feedback and participation in the design of future iterations. The project is one in a toolbox of rapidly deployable urban green infrastructure prototypes designed by the Hyphae Design Laboratory in collaboration with the non-profit Urban Biofilter. 

Transform your street, neighborhood, or city! Make public urination more positive!

Up Next: Materials List.

Step 1: Materials List

Planter components:
2 or more palletized LDPE bulk bins with metal support structure
Irrigation pipe (??)
Signage/Door Materials (polypro
LDPE sheet
Rear screen
Locking mechanism for door

Urinal + Sink
PET-G – enough for urinal, sink, and sink privacy screen
MDF for mold
Wood glue
Ecourinal Cartridge
Foot pump
P-trap (U pipe for under sink)
Hose for fresh water supply
Pipe for greywater, threaded to connect to P-trap on one end, urinal on the other
Filter media for urine/greywater
Urine / greywater tank(s) – 1, partitioned, or 2: filtration area + storage area
Freshwater tank or direct connection to freshwater supply
Pump from urine/greywater tank + hose
Lower pumpout
Connection from pump hose to blulock
Blulock piping: ¾” or 1” (as long as it’s all the same diameter!) to take greywater + urine to planters
Pipe fittings [Elbows (4?), Ts, Blu-lock to male threaded connector (2, or more), Female threaded plug]
Hose Clamps
Line Clean attachment (backwash?)

Sensors / Electrical:
Microcontroller (Arduino Uno)
Liquid level float sensors (4 or more)
IR distance sensor (3 or more)
Push button (1)
LED lights
Flow meter for freshwater usage + urine/greywater generation
Wires, alligator clips
Plexiglass case for electronics
Linux WiFi shield
12V battery
Solar PV panel
inverter (12V to 120V)
Interior light for urinal/sink
Wiring for interior light

Towel rack or towel dispenser + towels
Soap dispenser
Urine funnel dispenser + urine funnels
display screens
Exterior lighting

Step 2: Tools List

CNC Router
Vacuumforming tools
Saw-zall or Jigsaw
Drill with the following attachments: [Small drill bit to put bolts/screws into plastic, Small drill bit to put bolts/screws through metal, Hole cutter to cut holes into plastic, Screwdriver bits corresponding to whatever size/head screws you’re using]
Electric Sanding tool, small grinder, and/or Dremmel
Sand paper
Printer capable of printing on LDPE OR vinyl materials
Soldering iron + solder
Heat gun + heat shrink

Step 3: Build Bamboo Planter(s)!

1. Cut the top portion of the 2 bulks bin off: this may require temporarily removing the metal supports). Sand edges after cutting so they are smooth.
2. Install plug for greywater input to root zone (3/4” or 1” threaded, as appropriate for blu-lock fitting) into one bulk bin. Other bulk bin will be used for the sink and urinal.
3. Place 5’ long 2” diameter clear pipe into bulk bin so that it is vertical. Should be somewhere near a corner of the bulk bin.
Install an irrigation pipe attached to plug that will allow greywater/urine to disperse to
4. Add a layer of gravel (1’ thick), making sure pipe remains vertical in the corner of the container
5. Add a layer of soil (2.5’ thick): this should anchor the pipe in place – again make sure it is vertical using a level.
6. Plant bamboo!
7. Add top irrigation drip pipe (optional)
8. Top with mulch.
9. Make another one or two -- the more bamboo planters, the more privacy you'll have! Also, feel free to try willow or other nutrient loving plants... best to research which plants are salt-tolerant too.

Step 4: Create Sink + Urinal Molds!

1. Glue together sheets of MDF to be 12 inches thick (WARNING: resulting sheets will be very heavy!) with wood glue, then allow to dry.
Notes: work quickly while stacking and gluing each layer of MDF: try to cover the entire sheet of MDF with an even layer of wood glue by spreading it with a tool before quickly placing the next sheep on top of it and applying pressure. Don’t worry if glue seeps out the edges – you can wipe this away if you’d like but it won’t affect the CNC router or mold.

2. Use CNC router to cut molds of sink + urinal using our model files!

3. Sand molds to be as smooth as possible!

Step 5: Mold, Cut, and Finish Urinal and Sink

1. Vacuum-form PET-G in molds (We went to Tech Shop and got trained to do this!)
2. Cut holes in base of sink and urinal for drains to fit in
3. Paint Urinal (Back/underneath only! This way the front will be shiny) using spraypaint, and sink, if desired (sink may remain clear)
4. Add drains: waterless urinal cartridge can be added to urinal provided cut is exactly the right size, and you are using a thin rubber gasket and good plumbing adhesive. Sink drains will also require a small/thin rubber gasket and plumbing adhesive.

Step 6: Arduino Fun!

If you want to make this a sensing device, figure out your sensors as early as possible. You will want to make sure IR sensors or sensors measuring distance are all accurate before you install them. We will have Arduino/sensor code available here soon!

1. Test IR sensor for sensing when people are nearby. Place in a location where people frequently pass by or stand in front of for short periods of time. For example, good locations could be the kitchen or bathroom sink, the water cooler in an office, or a coffee maker or vending machine.

2. Flow rate sensor: try these instructions to measure flow rate for urinal and sink. We didn't use this in the original version, but it would have been nice! You can put the flow rate sensors in the fresh water tube leading from the foot pump to the spigot and in the hose connected to the outlet of urinal cartridge.

3. The liquid levels you will need to measure include the level in the urine/water tank (or bulk container, if using terrarium option), the level in the fresh water tank, and the level in the planter(s).
a. A liquid level float sensor should be placed at the point in the urine/water tank where there is enough liquid to warrant turning the pump on. As soon as the float goes up, it will trigger the pump to start.
b. A liquid level float sensor should reside in the bottom of the fresh water tank: in this case, an alert would be triggered as soon as the float goes down (when the water is almost gone and the tank needs a refill. Ideally, there could also be a pump that turns on or a valve that opens to fill the tank as soon as it is needed.
c. Another liquid level sensor should be placed in the planter(s) to ensure they are never oversaturated or at risk of smelling bad. For this, a soil moisture meter would be one option, or simply using a pipe with perforations in the side (which you should have installed already when building the planter) and an IR or distance sensor placed on the top of the pipe. As soon as the liquid level is within a short enough distance from the sensor, an alert will be sent to PPlanter technicians.

4. Wire up your sensors and code them using Arduino. Test all of them to make sure the distance range is correct and the floats are working. Code coming soon! In the meantime, here are some links to try:
E-tape Liquid Level Sensor instructions: http://itp.nyu.edu/physcomp/sensors/Reports/E-TapeLiquidLevelSensor
Other liquid level sensor video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu_9eiPu_pA&feature=youtu.be
IR sensor tutorial: http://www.robotshop.com/gorobotics/articles/microcontrollers/arduino-5-minute-tutorials-lesson-4-ir-distance-sensor-push-button

Step 7: Install Air Filter, Sink, & Urinal

1. Cut holes for sink, urinal, and maintenance door using fine saw or dremmel cutting tool, then smooth edges by sanding. Be careful to cut the exact shape of your urinal + sink. Cut a smaller hole first, and then cut a more exact hole after partially inserting sink/urinal 

2. Install Air Filter:
a. Cut out a hole the diameter of the 3” clear pipe in the upper portion of the back of the bulk bin container. The back is the side of the container opposite the side used for the sink. Make sure to cut exactly so the pipe can slide directly in – a 3” hole cutter would work well for this.
b. Attach square-cylinder piece to one end of the clear pipe so that it is tight. This will allow you to attach the square part to the wall of the bulk bin container
c. Glue computer fan onto the other end of the clear pipe, making sure there are no gaps (i.e. all air from tube passes directly through fan)
d. stuff filter bag or x-large stocking leg with granulated carbon, then stuff carbon bag inside of clear pipe/tube
e. drill at least 4 holes in the bulk bin container and corresponding holes onto the square portion of the square-cylinder piece (which is attached to your pipe). Use bolts to attach piece/pipe to container wall. The fan end of the pipe should be inside the bulk bin container, the carbon inside the pipe, and the pipe attached to the hole in the container.
f. Attach a piece of window screen or wire mesh to the pipe outlet, against the outer wall of the bulk bin.

3 Install IR sensor:
a. Install IR sensor next to hole where urinal will go. Make sure all wiring is done correctly!

4. Wire up your exhaust fan!

5. Wire up any optional lights you have chosen to include: lights inside the container make for an interesting glowing effect!

6. Install Urinal: While one person holds urinal in place from inside, drill holes through edges of urinal and overlapping edges of container, then attach urinal to container using 1/8” bolts (3/4” length or ½”) + lock nuts.

7. Use the same procedure to attach sink to container.

Step 8: Plumbing!

1. Install faucet behind sink, and connect faucet inlet using appropriately sized sink hose to outlet end of foot pump

2. Attach a second hose to inlet end of foot pump (there should be a nipple connection for a clear hose), and then place the other end of this hose at the bottom of the fresh water tank. If you use the foot pump now, the faucet should work! Check for leaks or problems now.

3. Attach U-pipe to sink drain (may need female to female adapter or other parts for this), and add vent to pipe after U.

4. Attach other end of U-pipe (after vent) to hose connecting to urinal greywater inlet (if you have purchased an off the shelf urinal rather than using our model, don’t worry about this step – just divert sink wastewater (greywater) to a combined urine/water tank/filter using a hose or pipe. If using terrarium, divert to terrarium filtration media surface, preferably to multiple outlet points).

5. Find appropriate size tube to connect to outlet of waterless urinal cartridge, and glue it in place with plumbing adhesive

6. Connect urinal tube to urine/water filter/tank or to terrarium, depending on approach used (see later steps).

Step 9: Urine/Water Filter/Tank (no Terrarium)

If you'd like to use a tank instead of turning your bulk bin into a terrarium, use the following instructions! This is not what we did for our first PPlanter prototype, so we don't have pictures :(

1. Upper portion – bucket, lower portion – tank. Make sure bucket nests inside of tank leaving at least 45 cm of space between the bottom of the bucket and the bottom of the tank. If not, make a wide rim for the bucket using a thin piece of plywood or thick piece of plastic (cut a hole in the sheet and drop bucket into hole so it is stable and supported by the hole)

2. Punch 0.5 cm diameter holes in bottom of bucket, then nest the bucket (or bucket/plywood assembly) into the tank.

3. Using a hole cutter, cut a hole the size of your outlet pump hose in the side of the tank. Glue a screen over the end of pump hose and insert screened hose into side of tank.

4. Fill bottom of tank with course gravel or rocks ~5 cm deep, then top with fine/pea gravel, then top with ceramic , activated carbon granules, zeolite granules, and mulch. All layers should be greater than 3-5 cm thick.

5. The pump inlet should be attached to the urine/water tank/filter, and the pump itself should remain inside the bulk bin container.

Step 10: Terrarium Approach

Layer filter media in bottom of bulk bin container and plant with herbs or hardy plants of your choice. Make sure to use zeolite - or ammonia adsorbing mineral particles!

Step 11: Finishing Touches

Install privacy Screen:
1. Cut out of plastic scraps a privacy screen, as shown in picture.
2. Paint screen
3. Attach screen to bulk bin container.
4. This will make a big difference if people are washing hands while someone is peeing!

Install Signage:

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    3 years ago

    Interesing.....I noticed that you said to use pea gravel.....how appropirate!

    eekco echo
    eekco echo

    7 years ago

    Maybe we can make HHO or something using very similar design,. But concept is greatastic! Ther is definitwly something here,., i cam smell it! Maybe that's pee but still... heehee,..

    eekco echo
    eekco echo

    7 years ago

    Heck yesSS!! Let's make the P155 outta these! They should be on every BLOCK instead of Stahbux.,! I'm IN!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Regardless of what everyone says here, I THINK THIS IS A GREAT IDEA!....


    9 years ago on Introduction

    i am interested in the chemical process to justify using this setup. Urine, to be used as a fertilizer, needs about 10 gallons of water for every gallon of pee. Also, the high salt content of urine really kills the bacteria in soil beneficial for the health of the entire plant ecosystem.

    while nitrogen is an excellent fertilizer, the type found in urine will burn most plants, except when diluted as described above and will work at best in citrus plants that really crave it...

    Urine has many incredible properties, there are scientists at NASA, true rocket scientists, working at it to deal and solve problems like how reclaim it, even the national park service in the us needs to dispose of urine from visitors in remote parks without dumping it into the soil creating a much bigger problem. so i am curious at this point to know if the size of the planter and the plants used only work as a buffer for awhile, until the inevitable destruction by straight pee takes place, in other words, what is the lifetime of this setup before it needs replacing?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    In my opinion, the majority of people would likely use this while out drinking, not on a daily basis. I personally have never been caught by surprise unless a significant volume of beer was involved. If that was the standard use, wouldn't the urine be diluted already? I know it's a much lighter color, sometimes appearing to be clear. I assume that means less urea in the urine? Would that be the same as adding water after peeing?


    9 years ago on Step 11

    Too much technology for such little results...

    Why not use natural slopes so that gravity carries water downhill through tanks and onto gardens. Save on a bit of the electronics in there, as well - some of it seems like technology for technology's sake..

    Use trapped rainwater to both dilute urine and wash hands ~ raised roof for filling the water tank would also shelter urinals and sinks.. Existing street lighting could light inside of structures, through the gaps above and below wall panels, and maybe some translucent roof panels as well?

    Fixed screens and partitions would be simpler, cheaper and more practical than a sliding screen.. Everything doesn't have to be in a straight line, either - a curve can be more efficient, and a spiral with the urinal at the centre even more effective again..

    For use around many larger sports venues, entertainment precincts, or even temporary use in disaster zones or refugee camps, urinals would need to be in sets of 5-10, and maybe in 4-5 locations to cope with the numbers.

    Better aesthetics, economy and management, when compared to "portaloos"..


    9 years ago on Step 11

    This looks like a solution looking for a problem. The only people shown to be working on this or using this are women. Can women use this?

    Maybe you don't realize, but guys don't really need this much privacy to pee outside...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hey there! Thanks for visiting. We had men working on the project too, and our men/women user ratio was about 4 to 1. That said, we had disposable urine funnels for ladies which worked great for peeing standing up!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure if you live in a decent sized city, but public urination is a big problem where I live. It's really gross to step outside my building into a puddle left behind by someone. I think if they added a toilet seat to this, they would get a lot of unwanted "solid" waste. Additionally, other than the occasional drunk girl outside a bar, it's mostly men that are guilty of this. I think it's a great idea, and would love to see these in my town.


    9 years ago on Step 11

    Interesting project. You certainly put a lot of work into what appears to be a working prototype. Why did you form your own sink and urinal instead of using commercially available units ?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    The pictures seem to show a lot of females working on this. I wouldn´t have thought they would get much use out of this. Is there some non-obvious reasons why so many females would work on something they probably won´t get to use?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It's possible they gain from not having to see gents pissing openly in the street ;) Public urination law is cruel and inhumane in my opinion, but it's pretty bad form to just whip it out anywhere!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm a lady, and without a funnel I can urinate while standing. It's difficult to use a urinal, but I can use a toilet with the seat up no problem. It just takes boredom on a camping trip and a LOT of water. ;)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    This is the best comment I have ever read on Instructables. Ever.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It can be done without, but there are things like this: http://www.rei.com/search?query=Pee+funnel ... I think pretty much any funnel will do.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I cannot believe that a female could stand up and try to do what comes naturally into that urinal, without getting their shoes wet, not to mention everything else.How embarrasing it would be for them with their knickers down around their ankles for all to see, whilst bending over backwards trying to relieve themselves, surely this cannot be a serious sollution to a recycling of human waste problem.