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How to stay afloat

The 'Design for Flood' exhibition continues until January 27. Photo by The Nation

Publication Date : 08-01-2013

 

Clever notions are turned into real devices for surviving flood catastrophes

 

All those great ideas on paper that the Thailand Creative and Design Centre decided last May were the best new ways to cope with flooding are now realities and on view this month at the centre in the Emporium.

The seven sketched-out notions that won the "Design for Flood" competition last spring are now in prototype form and ready to test in the field - although no one's in a hurry to see another deluge like Thailand endured in the autumn of 2011.

"We also teamed up with universities and private firms to develop three designs that didn't win," says Kittiarttana Pitipanich, an adviser at the design centre. "Our partners are willing to help develop prototypes within a limited budget.

"All of these are new innovations. We prepared the open-source blueprints to demonstrate how they could be produced and used, and now they have to be tested in a real situation to ensure quality and safety."

Tanakul Workgroup's Floating Toilet remains the most eye-catching invention. Made of plywood and resin-coated, it's foldable and relies on calcium hydroxide and chlorine for sanitation.

And while you're floating merrily down the stream in your toilet, you can keep track of your location thanks to Tanakul's foam emergency signs, in different designs and sizes.

The text on the signs, in water-resistant ink, is updated information about the current situation in any given area, including possible hazards such as sewage, slippery surfaces, submerged obstacles like speed bumps, strong water flow and loose electrical wires.

Another form of sign that can posted online bears a map with GPS coordinates so that relief teams can deliver food, medicine and drinking water.

Flat 6 Studio's FurFightFlood furniture, made from recycled polyethylene, is rugged but light enough to float, and mildew-resistant.

It's designed to carry belongings and food and can be piled up as a flood barrier when sandbags are unavailable.

Nuttapong Thammaruksasit's fold-up-and-carry Wee Boat is made primarily for office workers. It's canvas on an aluminium frame and can carry one person through the wet or be set on its rollers to tote gear like a suitcase.

King Monkut's University architecture student Yotsawadee Luetrakulset's Sufficient Vegetables Gardening Kit is a handbook on fast-growing edible plants with a weekly planting schedule and a list of vegetables that require little sunlight, just soil and, funnily enough, lots of water. In a flood that looks like it's going to last, you'll be dining on bean sprouts, water morning glory, coriander, scallions, bok choy (cabbage), basil and Chinese cabbage and kale.

Vatcharanont Kongchatthai's Disease Diagnosis Kit could save lives by helping people record any symptoms that appear and compare them on a chart to those associated with five common flood-borne diseases. It explains the potential for infection and basic treatment while tracking the symptoms' progress as an aid for the doctor you eventually get to see.

The three designs chosen for development despite not placing in the competition include the Community Water Supply - a floating filtration plant that works on pedal power - and the foam-and-canvas Water Level Measuring Buoy, which contains a retractable two-metre tape that could help commuters choose the safest routes for travel.

The third is a stainless steel Water Garbage Cleaner that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration can attach to the side of its trash-collection boats. It looks like a giant comb, ready to sweep up debris in canals.

Another concept from the contest is a monitoring system conceived by computer engineers in Chiang Mai University's OASYS Research Group, and the design centre vows to have a prototype finished before the exhibition ends.

The idea is to provide people in areas at risk what they were missing last time - accurate, up-to-date information on where the waters are rising. Sensors would watch the level and speed of floodwater and estimate how many days it will take to reach specific neighbourhoods. Cameras and devices to measure rainfall and temperature would be installed in every zone.

"We spent 2 million baht (US$65,700) on all the prototypes, half of which were produced by the Tanakul Workgroup," says the centre's Waritthi Teeraprasert. "We used 'design thinking' as the framework, focusing on the real needs of people. We've created the prototypes and now the hope is that the government and private firms will develop them for the public."

The "Design for Flood" exhibition continues until January 27 at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre on the sixth floor of the Emporium mall in Bangkok. You can download all 10 designs at www.TCDC.or.th/DesignForFlood.

 

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