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Community Notebooks: The Bio-toilet Saga
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Bio-Toilet correspondence 4

28-May-2010 [68]

• Bio-toilet meeting update, September 13, 2006

Since it rained, the meeting was held in the rink house instead. We now know that 95 adults and a whole lot of children can crowd into the rink house if necessary. The complainants who had called for the meeting didn't come, but City Parks manager Sandy Straw came, and so did her Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, and so did Recreation supervisor Tino Decastro. City Councillor Adam Giambrone was the moderator. Children as well as adults talked about wanting to help build the cob structure, wanting to have a toilet by the playground, and wanting to do something better with the environment. Georgie Donais answered questions about the way the toilet works. Many people asked the City staff and the councillor to go back to City Hall and find a way to remove the blocks to the project. They said they'd try.

kids allowed after all...
kids allowed after all

They were as good as their word. Early Wednesday morning Georgie went to the Park supervisor's office for a meeting with architect Martin Liefhebber. They looked at the plans and the architect said they needed only very minor changes for him to certify them. The Buildings Department said they would fast-track the approval as soon as the certification reaches them.

Peter Leiss said that when the foundation hole is level with the ground, the project would be categorized as no longer a construction site but an art project. That means that children can help again and the fence can come down. Later, when the roof goes in, the fence will go back up briefly until that bit of construction is finished.

From Jutta Mason to City Councillor Adam Giambrone, Sept.22 2006

Hi there -- a lady named Patricia came to the toilet project today to say the composting toilet is disgusting and she's lived in the neighbourhood for 50 years and she's not putting up with it. Then she talked to a man on Sylvan and he came over and said that the toilet is stupid and he was also mad about all the trees being planted (the contractor was there doing the first reforesting the park has had in 9 years).

From City Councillor Adam Giambrone to Jutta Mason, Sept.22 2006

We formally support it 100% and now after all the consultation the decision is made and will NOT CHANGE.


From Georgie Donais to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, March 27 2007

Hello! I trust you have enjoyed your time off from hearing from me! I am beginning to marshal resources for this year's bio-toilet completion, and I'm wondering what the status is of the drawings that Martin was working on? From Parks supervisor Peter Leiss to Georgie Donais, March 28, 2007

I have a preliminary set with some issues to resolve.

From Georgie Donais to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, March 28 2007

Is it something I should I be in contact with Martin about? From Parks supervisor Peter Leiss to Georgie Donais, March 30, 2007

It might be good idea. From Georgie Donais to architect Martin Liefhebber, March 30, 2007

It's Georgie here, of Dufferin Grove Park. I am wondering where things are at with the drawings approval regarding our earthen building/composting toilet project. We're gearing up to start our work shortly and of course will need all that squared away before we get going.

From Jutta Mason to Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, April 5 2007

I just want to give you the heads-up -- the deadline for Peter's bio-toilet project response is Tuesday April 10. If Peter does not respond with a very short time-line for permission then, we'll have to go on high alert.

There is a huge interest in this project -- by now, nine school classes have made arrangements to participate. No wiggle room, no procrastination time, no auto-reply "get back to me in a month." Georgie is on the Green Toronto podium on May 1 and it would be shocking if she had to tell people that the City is not coming through.

A little heads-up from you to Peter would not be amiss, maybe? He's had since last September to move this along.

I hope I'm worrying about nothing. I think Georgie just got back from being away -- I hope I'll find out from her that she had an e-mail waiting from Peter saying it's all set.

Georgie Green Award...
Georgie Green Award

From Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to Georgie Donais and Jutta Mason, April 5 2007

I had a brief chat with Peter about this on Monday at the end of the meeting we had about MacGregor park. He basically said that several issues had come up with the drawings Martin prepared, but they had now figured out a solution to all but one of them, and were working actively on getting the last issue resolved. He gave the impression it would be sorted out soon. I'll follow up and try to get more details. From Georgie Donais to Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, April 5 2007

Thanks, Chris. I surely hope that I am included in the loop soon, since changes/mods to the design and plans will impact my life quite a bit.

From Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to Georgie Donais, April 5 2007

I agree, I'm quite surprised they haven't been consulting you. I'm working on getting that fixed.

From Georgie Donais to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, April 10, 2007

Volunteers are making inquiries and things are getting organized in preparation to continue work on the bio-toilet. I'd like to meet with you to get some things settled, and make sure that our lines of communication are open. I'd like to know if you foresee any problems, and if so, what they would be.

In terms of timeline, we'd like to uncap the structure in time for Earth Day, April 20. The project will be the destination for the Dufferin Grove Park portion of the Jane Jacob's Walk on May 5. School groups arrive to work on the project beginning on May 23 and continue to mid-June. The aim is to finish the project for July 31. Before we get going, we have provisions to make for the drywell, electrical work and materials procurement, etc.

The carpentry volunteers have been chomping at the bit to get going, and right now we have free use of a wood shop and would like to make good use of it. For that, I need access to the final approved drawings. I emailed Martin about a week ago, but haven't heard back. Can you let me know what is happening with the drawings? I would like to know what the final plans look like and what alterations may have been made, meeting with Martin if required.

From Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to Parks supervisor Peter Leiss, April 11 2007

Councillor Giambrone would like to meet with you as well as the architect to work through any outstanding issues with this project. Can someone please pass this invitation along to the architect since I don't have his contact info.

Adam proposes meeting at 3 pm on Friday 13 April 2007 in Meeting Room A on the 2nd floor of City Hall. Please confirm that you are available to attend at this time.

Agenda: -Building permit approvals process:

what are the outstanding issues?
what are the new construction requirements coming out of this process?
what is the timeline for final approval of the project and getting the permit issued?

how do we ensure the above timeline and project requirements compliment Georgie's proposed construction timeline?

From Parks supervisor Peter Leiss to Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, April 11, 2007

Would it possible to book an earlier time? I will contact Martin Liefhebber to determine his availabilty. We may be able to work through most of the issues in his absence.

From architect Martin Liefhebber to bio-toilet e-mail list, April 11 2007

STATUS: The City's review, dated March 14/07 of our Permit Application identified 7 points. (Its assumed you have a copy)

I will use the points as referred to in the Notice.:

Point 1 A separate Plumbing Permit for the "septic system". Applicant/Designer to be registered as "Designer" under Part 8 of the OBC. Point 2 (5) one lavatory required if there is a toilet (10) Faucet automatic handling (a) and lever type (b). Point 3 "Surface Protection" Hygiene and longevity requirements for floor and walls within 3 feet of toilet Point 4 "Barrier Free" OBC 3.7 Point 5 Parts of "structure" are not governed under Part 9 of the OBC. A P.Eng registered as designer under Part 4 OBC is needed. Point 6 Roof slopes (elevations) Point 7 Question on Vegetative Roof, how is drained, how is erosion prevented

Following is the response to these points Point 1 I have asked P.Engineer, Mr. Andrew Hellebust, qualified under Part 8 to review the "Phoenix Composter" and the sepic system. The design is determined by the calculation of the leachate (Q) discharge. He'll provide his hours estimate to do the work and update the design. Question to you what # of usages p/day?

Point 2, Point 3, Point 4, All are fundamental requirements in the OBC. The plans examiner is correct to identify these. Point 3 is logical and appropriate under the OBC. Points 2 and Point 4 are good examples of value collisions. The Building Code's and its regulations is governed under the laws of the Building Code Act, to ensure public safety and 'community' standards. It takes for granted that an infrastructure is available providing pressurized water and city sewage services. This may not be always the case and likely less so in the future. As the quality of our environment deteriorates, we regularly discover that the OBC is in the way of environmental design progress. State of the art of environmental design is not recognized in it. Materials/science and design are not being updated. In fact there is no building materials research in Canada, and you may take comfort that this project if and when approved, will form the basis for ongoing interest and research. However incredibly small, is in fact very significant , as it aims to be built using an "alternatives" philosophy. This bring me to Point 5, the difficult one.

Point 5 No Ontario registered structural engineer has been involved, or has taken responsibility for Adobe construction in Ontario. They are not insured for this and therefore wish to not be liable unless due diligence can be done. Adobe is folk technology in Ontario, officially recognized as standard in Mexico. We have used and have shown on the drawings the Mexican Building Code specifications for adobe construction. The building department wants an engineer to take the responsibility for the structure, which has not been designed by that engineer. In fact the foundation in its configuration and construction method has already been built by the community builders. Yes the adobe walls can be designed , the compositon determined etc. , but the expected results rely on the best of site quality control. The community builders, however good and well intended can not be relied on as 'professional' experienced adobe builders, because they haven't not done it before as its squeeky new in Ontario. To calculate and rely on, the adobe walls, similarly. An engineer (I have two in mind) has to calculate everything. The Building Department doesn't likely care how its done, as long its done by a P.Eng who seals the drawing. Its difficult, but not impossible as well its time consuming.

Points 6 and 7 Simply information, detail that needs to be added.

Conclusion Point 5 is the most complicated but can have a simple solution. As a goodwill test project. As the structure is being built the composition can be subjected to rigurous strength testing. Only when deemed safe can it be used by the public for the purpose intended. With the Chief Building Official's agreement, the point 5 requirement can realistically be waived by requesting the CBO to put a protocol in place that satisfies the intent of the Ont. Building Code. From Georgie Donais to architect Martin Liefhebber, April 11 2007

Martin,Thank you very much for this; much to chew on. Looks like the meeting has been moved to Monday or Tuesday of next week; Chris has been collecting peoples votes re: date and time.

I'm sure you've passed on info regarding the toilet assembly to the engineer already, but here's the Facilities Guide: Regarding uses per day, there is a chart on page 8 of this guide, calculating allowable uses of the PF-201. Likely, it would be used in our park something like 50 times a day on weekends in June and September, and 100 times a day, every day, in July and August. (It would open on weekends in mid-May, opening full time for July and August, and back to weekends for September and a bit of October.)

Peter, can you bring a copy of the Permit Application to the meeting? Thanks in advance.

From Parks supervisor Peter Leiss to architect Martin Liefhebber, April 12 2007

My understanding is that there will less than 100 usages per day of the facility. This would be of course only for the summer months and would likely be less most of the time.

From Jutta Mason to Councillor Adam Giambrone, April 12 2007

Now that this bio-toilet project has come back under the City's consideration, it appears that there are a number of issues, at least one of which is major. The architect's comment that struck me is this: this project if and when approved, will form the basis for ongoing interest and research. However incredibly small, it is in fact very significant.

So despite the headaches involved, this seems worth finding the solutions. And the community support Georgie has gathered is very extensive, so the stick-to-it push is also there.

The most important next step is to gather around the table and get all this out where we can all see it together once -- i.e. I agree with Georgie that the architect needs to be there at this meeting you've called, so everybody's in the room.

I hope that one of the times listed by Georgie is workable for all.

One final thing: Georgie tells me she has not yet seen the City's March 14 City review of the permit application. Since this is Georgie's project, could she be given a copy? And could she be a party to all deliberations, reports, etc. from here on? That will save some time.

From Parks manager Sandy Straw to Jutta Mason, April 12 2007

I agree Jutta. We ( especially Peter) have spent considerable time workibng the bureaucracy to keep this project on the go. We have further committed to support funds required re engineer. To date we have spent over 4K on the architect alone We are breaking new ground but we will keep at it From Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to Jutta Mason, April 12 2007

Our office is also in agreement Jutta. I think everyone has understood that this is a small local project that has some pretty significant big picture implications for how we go about implementing environmental projects and initiatives in this city.

This meeting needs to have Georgie, Martin, Peter, Victor and Adam all at the same table to be able to productively work through the outstanding issues. Victor is not available on Monday, so we are now looking at the following two options:

Tue April 17 at 10 am or 1 pm

I am still waiting to hear back from Peter and Martin on their availability on Tuesday and will confirm the meeting shortly thereafter.

I also request that both Georgie and I be emailed the March 14th review as I have not seen it either and it would be helpful to have so we can prepare for the meeting. Victor, I assume you are the one who has this? From Georgie Donais to architect Martin Liefhebber, April 12 2007

You mention that there is not much for materials testing is being done in Canada. I do know of one, may not be what we're looking for, but involves seismic testing of cob at UBC: I can contact the cobbers involved to see about engineer's reports, if this is barking up the right tree. From Jutta Mason to Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, April 12 2007

Chris, I'm glad to hear so much determination in your e-mail and in Sandy's -- sounds like we'll all need it. And Georgie will need the same two people at this meeting with her who were at the meeting with Martin on Sept.12, in Peter's office -- Jenny Cook and me. So please put two more chairs in the room. (This may seem obvious, but we need to be there because I need to know what additional funds need to be raised, and Jenny needs to contribute what's doable in terms of volunteer coordination.) Sounds like next Tuesday's the day, since that's good for Martin at 1 pm.

In the meantime, a bunch of us are working with Georgie to pull together all her research and all of our cob contacts into a workbook that will give us all a better sense of how many other cob structures exist in Ontario, the rest of Canada, and the U.S., and what kind of testing/engineering approvals have been done on them. We'll bring along some extra copies of this workbook on Tuesday.

From Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to Jutta Mason, April 13 2007

The meeting is confirmed for Tuesday April 17th at 1:00 pm at City Hall, 2nd floor, committee room 4. Jutta and Jenny will also be joining us.