Social / May - Jun 2016


May 22, 2016

One of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals is to ensure environmental sustainability, including the improvement of sanitation facilities. Despite progress in sanitation coverage, there are currently about 2.5 billion people all over the world who lack access to basic sanitation and more than a billion people are still practising open defecation.

In Vietnam, it is estimated that 1 in 10 people in the rural areas still use primitive latrines that release human waste into water bodies, resulting in contamination of the environment1. Sanitation-related illnesses continue to be a significant health issue. Diarrhoea is one of the main causes of morbidity, leading to 250,000 hospitalisations per year [2]. Infection rates are high, especially among ethnic minority children. The lack of access to toilets is also common in schools nationwide. Currently, a quarter of the schools in the rural areas do not have toilets, while 88 percent of them do not have latrines that meet the standards established by the Ministry of Health. Hence, this project was necessary to help improve hygiene and health in the remote communities of Vietnam.


Son Lap Commune, Bao Lac, Cao Bang Province is a small village comprising 257 households and 1,700 inhabitants, with the H’Mong and Dao ethnic minorities forming 98 percent of the population. More than 70 percent of the population live in poverty—they have to live a life without electricity, infrastructure, roads, markets and telecommunication network. Following the shifting cultivation of wandering hill tribes, they have destroyed forests and kept backward habits. With such a nomadic way of life, one wonders about the educational needs of the children.


Surprisingly, the commune does have a school. It has a total of 485 students from kindergarten to secondary levels, with more than 10 classes at the main school, four branches and staff housing. However, none of them meet the minimum sanitary standards. As such, a space that includes a toilet, washing area and vegetation is urgently needed for this particular school and for the Vietnamese countryside in general. The project named Toigetation was designed based on three objectives: quick construction, low cost and wide applicability.


Likening the project to a large tree with wide canopy giving shade for the space below and within, Toigetation blends into the slope at the foot of Phja Da mount. It includes a thick layer of vegetation (trees and herbs) on four sides and the surrounding terraced garden. The vegetation layer helps in regulating the indoor climate, reinforcing the load bearing structure, supplying food, and at the same time, creating an implied boundary between the inside and outside.


The project was created by local manpower (teachers, students and others) and local materials (bamboo, bricks and reused sewers) with simple construction methods (dig/fill proportion of 1/1; handcraft methods: pin, tie and hang), which anchored and tied the structure to the ground, making it more resistant to natural disasters. In addition to natural ventilation and lighting, solar panels are used for producing energy, and reusing waste water and running water.

Users can learn from the dialogue between the project, nature and local community. The construction methods would be useful teaching materials for subjects such as geology and hydrology (water); physics (light diffusion); aerodynamics (ventilation); biology (photosynthesis and vegetable planting); and agriculture. Given its potential to be widely applicable, people from across the country can quickly replicate a Toigetation within three weeks at a cost of USD3,000.


Project Name Toigetation blank
Location Son Lap School, Son Lap Commune, Bao Lac, Cao Bang Province, Vietnam
Completion Date December 2014
Site Area 81 square meters
Gross Floor Area 36 square meters
Building Height 3.3 square meters
Principal Architects Doan Thanh Ha; trac Ngoc Phuong
Main Contractor H&P Architects
Images/Photos Doan Thanh Ha; H&P Architects

To read the complete article, get your hardcopy at our online shop/newsstands/major bookstores; subscribe to FuturArc or download the FuturArc App to read the issues.