UCT pupil wins top honours

Civil engineering graduate, Tinashe Chipako, won the 2018 South African Institution of Civil Engineering National Investigative Project Showdown.

University of Cape Town (UCT) civil engineering graduate, Tinashe Chipako has won a top national award for his project on waterless urinals.

Tinashe won the 2018 South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Investigative Project Showdown for South African universities.

His project investigated the “feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus”.

The competition attracts the cream of the country’s civil engineering students who present their research projects to an audience and panel of judges.

Tinashe, who graduated cum laude, was part of Dr Dyllon Randall’s newly established urine research field in the Department of Civil Engineering.

He was among a quartet of final-year students working on urine research projects. One of these, 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 Dr Randall calls “liquid gold”.

Tinashe added: “Being exposed to events such as the SAICE National IP Showdown, and further having the honour to represent UCT, was an amazing experience. Having the community take interest in your research is always a plus as well.”

His research made five key findings:

First, that UCT uses enough water to fill about eight Olympic-size swimming pools to flush urinals each year.

Second, that UCT purchases four tons of fertiliser each year, but seven tons of fertiliser could be made from urine collected on campus.

Third, that 79% of the 500 survey respondents said they would support food grown using urine-derived fertiliser.

Fourth, that 96% of the respondents said they would support waterless urinals because they conserve water.

Fifth, that the cheapest option for saving water in urinals would be to simply reduce the number of flushes. (This has already been achieved by placing signage in several bathrooms asking users to not flush).