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BWB NEWS 11/14/2023

Prototyping the ShowerLoop at BRC 2023

by Sergii Dumyk

Part 1. Conceptual
My mission is to accelerate a sustainable future and to create a holistic environment for humans and nature to coexist in a blossoming way. Our NGO 001, a BWB grantee from 2018, is focusing on building the Prototype of Future Housing, an autonomous modular tiny house made primarily of natural materials and which is relatively easy and affordable to build. By autonomous we mean not just fossil fuel-free heating and solar panels. This off-grid house will not need well water, city water or a sewage connection. Ideally, we see a self-contained house that only creates a small amount of greywater and waste.

To achieve such a high performance of sustainability, the house must wisely manage its water, which is ideally rain collected. The two main techniques we’ve developed are composting toilets and the ShowerLoop system for showers. The toilets are waterless, odorless and separate feces and urine. By being waterless they save 25% of an average household’s water usage. But what is ShowerLoop? Just check this out.

The image is from, an open source project. “Real-time filtration, purification, recycling & heat recovery system for showers. Made in Finland, for Earth.” – as stated on their website. When we discovered this in 2022 we were so fascinated that we immediately decided to implement a version of this system for our house. Replacing a traditional shower with ShowerLoop saves an additional 25% of water making the total water savings to 50%. Keep in mind, that’s for a traditional household scenario – with a bathtub as the main consumer. In our tiny house, the total water saving would reach 80%. That’s HUGE! And I don’t even mention energy saving here.

True Sustainability requires us to save as much of a resource, such as water and energy, as possible – before using any renewables. So, before buying solar panels and batteries, before seeking more water sources – we must first save. That’s exactly what ShowerLoop is about. For our house, we won’t need as much water catching surface, water storage space and as much electricity to warm it up. We were blown away at the impact of saving only!

So now, we are in 2023, in July, in Western Ukraine. The build of our house is progressing and the Burning Man is approaching also. Suddenly, we had an epiphany – we could build a large-scale version of ShowerLoop for Burning Man and create a prototype for BRC to become radically more sustainable. Let me share my dream with you. Imagine a new type of BRC infrastructure – a hygiene block having showers, toilets, and a sink. Showers are ShowerLoop based and require just 3 IBC totes of water per block of 6 shower cabins. Sink works within the same system. After the Burn, these 3 totes of gray water would need to be dumped, but dealing with gray water is way easier than with black water. For instance, you can just evaporate it. Composting toilets collect materials that can be used for permaculture and thus – this would eventually replace porta potties and their servicing. Also, this would create a new level of comfort for burners. I called it RAB – Radically Ablution Block. Check out this aha moment summarized.

Radically Ablution Block – Project Proposal for Burning Man

July was too late to submit such projects to Burning Man. However, my friend Shawn from Global Village was interested in hosting ShowerLoop at his BRC village. So I am packed up to begin my journey.

Part 2. Pre-build
As of July, I had zero experience with plumbing. The idea was to attract volunteers, local to a pre-build site and ideally with some plumbing knowledge. The reality – I was going to practice Radical Self-Reliance. I was offered access to a pre-build site near Ashland, Oregon, with water, electricity, and decent burritos nearby. So it was time to get my hands dirty!

I decided to build a 3-cabin version of ShowerLoop, using as little money as possible yet providing a comfortable, default world-like experience. By the way, at this point in our R&D in Ukraine, we saw a ShowerLoop implementation quite different from the one on their website. Especially on a large scale, septic tanks are essential to be used as pre-filters. Let’s take a look.

In the photo above we see a platform made of scaffolding and the two tanks connected together with the pump. The idea: the tank to the right receives shower water from the top, cleaner water gets pushed to the other tank and then through the pump. Initially, both tanks are filled with clean water. This setup is designed for at least 500 showers and each shower is not limited in time – enjoy for as long as you want! If more showers are needed, the water can be replaced in one or both of the tanks, but the main carbon filter doesn’t need to be replaced until around 30K gallons run through it, or even 100K gallons if using a more advanced cartridge.

After the water is pumped, it goes through a series of filters. The first one is a sediment polypropylene filter inside a clear housing to check its state. The second and the main one is the activated carbon filter. It filters out odor and taste, as well as sediment. It also has a low pressure drop design, which is important for real-time filtration.

Luckily, a Home Depot was nearby. Some days I went there up to 7 times and thought: I should have pre-build this thing in their parking lot, lol.

Anyways, after filters, clean water distributes over 3 shower cabins using smaller pipes. Let’s close the loop! Each cabin has a regular shower hair filter, which is supposed to be cleaned by the user after each shower. All three drains are connected using drain pipes. Right before entering the first tank there is a very important pre-filter made from a … just tights. This design requires regular maintenance but is very efficient in not letting Playa dust and other organic matter go inside the tank.

Overall, I spent around 3 weeks on this pre-build and pre-test and I gained so much skill and experience! Also, it was fun to help fellow burners with their projects and packing in the end. Once it was finished I could not wait to assemble this in Black Rock City.

Part 3. BRC
Things never go as planned at the BRC and Burners have learned to go with the flow. This year was no exception. The day after arrival, I staged all ShowerLoop parts and waited for a green light and a spot to start the assembly. I was excited to serve 500+ people at Global Village with a great shower experience. I even prepared stickers! 

However, the build this year was affected by the weather, and most projects were postponed. Once the ShowerLoop is built and filled with water, it’s quite hard to move it before the final dumping. So, the location had to be final, which was decided late Tuesday, after finishing with other structures and infrastructure builds. My campmates knew about some fancy shower system I intended to build and kept asking me .. when? .. when? .. when?

By late Wednesday, the first ShowerLoop was built and tested by me. Damn, was it awesome to wash out all this dust! This is how it looked on the first night…

Tanks are lit up by the UV lamps inside. This is essential to kill bacteria, viruses, remove odor and prevent algae. Doesn’t it look like a freaking futuristic art object? Extremely functional, intimate and providing real pleasure!

The next day Burners started to enjoy the ShowerLoop. I was around, checking filters and congratulating everyone with a sticker. I should mention that this version of ShowerLoop is designed to be warmed up by the sun. And the placement appeared to be almost perfect, as the sun started to shine in that corner from the morning, and by noon-ish, it was gone, while the tanks were warm enough for a refreshing shower. With more sunlight, the water may have gone too hot. Also, I noticed the need to clean up the tights pre-filter, mostly because of the dust that left happy Burners’ bodies. For sure, there is room for improvement – likely a sand-based pre-filter is better; just needs to be big enough to work in real-time.

Image source

September 1st, Friday, was a very special day. Not only did it bring a stunning double rainbow. It brought rain. A LOT of rain. ShowerLoop had to be turned off, together with most of the generators. I was happy, though. My mission was accomplished. 

Here you can see some more technical insights about ShowerLoop. Filmed during the disassembly process.

Part 4. Post-BRC and the future
Overall this ShowerLoop served around 50 showers, but was capable of way more. My idea was to move it to Fly Ranch after the Burn and keep it alive and functioning there. I tried to organize this, but it did not work out. Thus, the invention was disassembled and packed into big vehicles. The gray water was dumped. I returned to Ukraine. While this ShowerLoop is ready for the next Burn, let’s think about how solutions like this would contribute to Burning Man’s sustainability in the future. 

If we like the idea of providing hygiene services at Burning Man in the most sustainable way, we need a couple of things:

  • Ablution Blocks, having ShowerLoops and potentially composting toilets
  • Rainwater collection and storage nearby BRC
  • Greywater reuse/evaporation nearby BRC
  • In case of using composting toilets, liquids and solids need to be utilized nearby BRC – for compost creation and growing plants, also using fertilizers made from the liquid part.

By “nearby BRC,” I mean a location like the Fly Ranch, with soil that can be used for permaculture. The most important consideration is to reduce transportation and its CO2 footprint to a minimum. Pretty much I see this as a permaculture-based village, self-sustainable all year around, and that showcases its green tech, like ShowerLoop, during BRC existence. Sustainable showers, water and heat management are more important for such a village, especially in winter.  While a shower at BRC is not a necessity, it is still a great place for demonstration of any advanced green technology.

My deep gratitude goes to:

  • Shawn Saleme – for supporting and hosting ShowerLoop and myself while being extremely busy with the Global Village mayorship,
  • Steven Raspa, and Michelle David – for helping with all the permissions for getting me out of Ukraine,
  • Alexa Graham – for organizing and promoting my GoFundMe for this effort,
  • Christopher Breedlove – for being supportive, since 2018,
  • Ihor Mostovyi – my partner-in-crime in all my eco projects, including the 001 House and the ShowerLoop


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