2016 – Sipaia,
Papua New Guinea

Sipaia Composting Toilets

  • Location: Lae, Papua New Guinea
  • Completed: December 2016
  • Delivered: On time and on budget

Unsanitary toilets contribute to the high mortality rates in PNG and the effects of climate change and sea level rise create ongoing health problems in seaside communities. Pit toilets do not properly deal with human waste, are unsafe, often flood and enable poo to flow through the village.

The 2016 Bower project followed on from a similar project in 2012 and saw the construction of safer, cleaner, composting toilets in the Sipaia village.

Post occupancy evaluation is a crucial stage in any community development project and not always easy to undertake at project’s end and with remote communities. We have been fortunate that three separate groups have been able to visit Sipaia and provide a first hand evaluation on the 2012 project. These reports revealed that the toilets were being used and fulfilled their technical and cultural needs. Some minor modifications were suggested (and were made) but the common response from the community members was to ask: When are the Bower people coming back?

Four years after the first composting toilets were built at Sipaia a new Bower team arrived in December 2016 to help construct two more. The Sipaia community contributed 36 workers to assist the 16 Bower students and staff.

It was particularly gratifying to see that the 16 pit toilets counted along the foreshore in 2012 had dwindled to just two over the years since 2012. This was the clearest indication of the success of the initial project. The timing of our arrival was also fortuitous as some zinc coated steel components were beginning to rust and fail. Over the ten days it took to build the two new toilets the older composting systems were reconditioned with more durable materials.

Previous projects at the Suanum and Sipaia communities also revealed the desire for the locals, both male and female, to fully engage with the construction systems and tools. The commitment by the local workers to learn to use the power tools was inspiring and many spoke of the confidence their new expertise provided them. Many said the experience would help them find work.

Bower Studio thanks the people of Sipaia for welcoming the team into their community and the considerable work undertaken by the extensive local work team.

This project was revisited in 2017



Logos for Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Milwaukee Tools

Funding Agencies

  • Australian High Commission Port Moresby Heads of Mission Direct Aid Program
  • University of Melbourne John McIlwraith Fund

Project and Industry Partners

  • Milwaukee Power Tools
  • Natural Direction
  • Lae Rotary Club

and special thanks to Keith Galgal

Community Leaders

  • Malac Tabi Yaling
  • Magas Hamalac
  • Sandy Karo
  • Luther Jacob
  • Susie David
  • Dala Yaling
  • Tali Aikou
  • Newton Saing

Studio Leaders

  • Dr David O’Brien
  • Trevor Galgal
  • James Neil
  • Deane Woruba
  • Kathleen Kopietz


  • James Connor
  • Andrew Curnow
  • Ivana Dancova
  • Corina de Araujo
  • David Gerber
  • Georgia Hall
  • Nicola Leong
  • Neha Nagarkar
  • Xeyiing Ng
  • Angus Rankin
  • Nina Tory-Henderson
  • Toby Woolley