Project Examples

Solar bathroom module for the Tohono O’odham Reservation

Course: 22.423 - Capstone
Semester: Spring 2008
Instructor: John Duffy
Partner:Tohono O’odham Reservation, AZ

The Tohono O’odham Indian reservation is in the southwestern region of Arizona that borders Mexico. Its 2.8 million acres form an area that is comparable to the size of Connecticut, and houses a population of about 11,400 members. Most of the people in the reservation do not have access to electricity or running water; nevertheless, the students at the tribal college at the reservation (TOCC) have been working to provide better living conditions: they have constructed (with their carpentry, electrician and plumbing skills) modular bathrooms. The University of Massachusetts Lowell wishes to contribute to this project its solar engineering skills in order to complement the skills from the TOCC with technologies that will ensure the sustainability of the projects in a land where the balance with nature is a priority.

Students developed a study of the energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that are suitable for implementation on the modular bathrooms and reservation houses in order to achieve sustainability and energy independence. These green building techniques include the optimization of passive solar measures, the design of an energy efficient evaporative cooler, the implementation of a solar hot water system and a photovoltaic electrical system. The systems are designed to be suitable for manufacture by a microenterprise at TOCC. The capstone students worked with Vivian Crespo, a graduate student in the renewable energy engineering program, whose MS thesis was focused on the detailed design of the solar systems of the bathroom module. The module is in the process of being constructed by the TOCC students and is nearly complete as of November 2009.