Humanitarian Action

A Portable Solar Powered Water Purifier

I’ve been working on the design for a unique portable solar powered water purifier since 2015. I have made considerable progress in developing two proof-of-concept prototypes, identifying consumer market segments in the U.S. that it might fit within, researching applications in international humanitarian settings, and keeping abreast of innovations in the field.

United States patent #10,093,553 B1 was issued for the solar powered water purifier on October 9, 2018. You can download the patent here:

solar powered water purifier

There have been many variations of solar stills patented over the last 70 years.  Like other stills, this one doesn’t require any electricity, filters, chemicals, or moving parts to operate. This design is unique because the core technology comprises only three parts. Having fewer parts greatly facilitates supply chain development, and also may help keep unit costs down.

Water quality tests performed in Summer 2017 showed very positive results; the device effectively removed dissolved solids, fecal coliform, petroleum distillates and glyphosate. More third-party testing is required, especially to determine its effectiveness with shigella, enteropathic e. coli, rotavirus, and cryptosporidium, the leading causes of childhood diarrheal infection in the world.

Solar Powered Water Purifier - Test Results of Water Quality
Solar Powered Water Purifier – Test Results of Water Quality

Yield testing is ongoing; the most in-depth research in solar stills is currently being done in Tamil Nadu, India, and I’ve been using their research to guide my experiments with various wicking materials and configurations to improve quantities of water generated per day.

This core technology will be incorporated within a total Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage System (HWTS). HWTS is a term used by international humanitarian organizations to describe various low-tech means to purify water in low-resource settings, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. HWTS technology purifies water, and also provides for its appropriate storage, safe from re-contamination. While I believe there may be a market for this device within low-resource settings someday, I also believe it may fill an immediate gap in the product offerings for US consumers, within the DIY/ homesteader/ survivalist market segment.

Community Architecture and Construction

Gocio Elementary School Permaculture Garden

Ramada at Gocio Elementary School, Sarasota, Florida

I led a volunteer team to perform a series of improvements at the Gocio Elementary School between 2013 – 2017. The improvements included the ramada structure, an irrigation system, raised planting beds, and ground cover. My role included fund raising, garden and structure design, technical documents, permitting, project management, custom fabrication and installation of the improvements.

Rain Water Cisterns at Geraldson Community Farm

Rain water cisterns and shade structure at Geraldson Farm in Bradenton, Florida

Because the Geraldson Farm is owned and operated by a local not-for-profit, and I’m a supporter of their mission, a portion of my architectural services were provided pro bono. The cisterns and shade structure comprised an important water resources conservation strategy on the farm.

WSLR Community Radio Station

WSLR Community Radio Station, Sarasota, Florida

As a long-time supporter of community radio, I worked with the station’s Improvements Committee to design a new home for the station in 2012. This included broadcast and performance studios, office, and supporting functions.

Maritime Arts and Inspiration Center

Maritime Arts and Inspiration Center, Andros Island, Bahamas (with Sean McLendon)

I volunteered to provide conceptual design work for a not-for-profit startup that centered on rural economic development on Andros Island, Bahamas in 2003. The MAIC was conceived as an artists’ retreat that enabled mainland tourists to collaborate with and learn from local artisans. The project included re-use and adaptation of a historic structure and new supporting facilities derived from vernacular traditions.

Design and Construction of Escuela Primaria Emiliano Zapata

Stone landscape wall at Escuela Primaria Emiliano Zapata in Tejalpa, Morelos, Mexico

As a graduate student with the Design/Build Mexico program at the University of Washington, I participated in community engagement, collaborative design, and construction of a 350m2 classroom building for the Escuela Primaria Emiliano Zapata, located within the informal settlement of Colonia San Lucas in Tejalpa, Mexico in 1997.

2014 World Environment Day

I was invited to present as a panelist at the United Nations’ World Environment Day forum in June 2014 at Mote Marine Institute in Sarasota, Florida. The theme of World Environment Day centered on the release of the United Nation’s Small Island Developing States Report, and five panelists addressed how Sarasota is addressing the findings and concerns in the report. My portion of the presentation, concerning the ‘green economy’, begins at 53:00.