University of Cape Town (UCT) civil engineering graduate Tinashe Chipako won the 2018 South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Investigative Project Showdown for his research project on the feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus.
The Western Cape is currently enduring the worst drought in over a century.
Chipako, who graduated cum laude, was part of the newly established urine research field in the Department of Civil Engineering led by Dr Dyllon Randall. Chipako was among a quartet of final-year students working on urine-research projects.
Another of the students, Craig Flannagan’s fertiliser-from-urine project, won the Greenovate Award in 2017.
The students’ assignments demonstrated the benefits of introducing waterless urinals that not only save vast quantities of water, but recover valuable, sustainable resources from what Randall calls “liquid gold”.
Chipako’s research made five key findings, including that UCT uses enough water to fill about eight Olympic-size swimming pools to flush urinals each year.
UCT buys 4 t of fertiliser a year, but 7 t of fertiliser could be made from urine collected on campus.
Chipako scored the highest course mark for his research work (92%) completed last year, as well as the highest poster mark (87%).
The competition attracted entries from South Africa’s top universities and is described as a showcase of the country’s best emerging engineers, with the winners reflecting a new breed of engineers, who are technically adept and proficient in written and verbal communication.