Past Projects

Solar Desalination | Sonora, Mexico (2016)

Many coastal regions are turning to water desalination to cope with (climate change-induced) water stress. However, the current process includes high infrastructure costs and requires considerable amounts of energy, rendering it uneconomical and environmentally unsustainable. Under the leadership of former SEAS student Pablo Taddei, SWB worked in collaboration with the University of Sonora and local authorities to design and test a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) desalination plant prototype. Joint research also focused on utilization of the CSP brine byproduct to produce salt that can be sold to the cattle industry. Pablo is continuing work to on the project while pursuing his Ph.D. at Harvard. 

Biosand Filters | Pingyao, China (2016)

Biosand Filters (BSF) are low-cost, low maintenance, point-of-use filters that are built out of locally available materials. The Arsenic Biosand Filter (ABSF) is a version of the BSF that is designed to remove arsenic and pathogens present in the groundwater.

High levels of arsenic in the groundwater in China are a major public health concern. In addition to a fairly widespread volume of naturally occurring arsenic-contaminated well-water across China, a significant amount of arsenic is contributed by anthropogenic actions like rapid industrialization, weak environmental policies and poor planning. Cases of chronic arsenicosis have been found in eight provinces in mainland China, including Shanxi. The highest arsenic levels in drinking water lie between 0.05 and 2 mg/L, dangerously higher than the WHO-recommended level of 0.01 mg/L (Mukherjee et al., 2006). Rodríguez-Lado et al (2013) estimate that close to 20 million people are at risk of being affected by the consumption of arsenic-contaminated groundwater in China.

At the University of Michigan, we built a prototype of an ABSF design with the intent of replicating the contamination and filtration scenario in Shanxi, testing our filter and further optimizing our design. At Pingyao – Shanxi, we worked with our student partner organization, the Rural International Student Exchange (RISE) group from Tsinghua University and a student group from the Taiyuan University of Technology to implement another design variant of the ABSF in a village. We successfully built 43 ABSFs in individual households, and initial performance tests showed that the ABSFs were able to remove up to 87% of arsenic, relative to the arsenic content of the inflowing water, while minimizing the turbidity of the water.

Eco-Retreat Center Design | Jungle Farm, Liberia (2015) 

Though the Liberian Civil War ended in 2003, the country still faces serious political, financial, administrative, and organizational challenges. SWB's design of an Eco-Retreat Center addresses the consequential shortage of comfortable and sustainable spaces for organizations working on rebuilding the country. The final project deliverables include a master plan as well as illustrations for specific sub-areas (e.g., the garden space, community activity area, and reception lawn) of the site. Sustainable design strategies reflected in overall site design, materials selection, and stormwater management strategies include sensitive building placement, rain harvesting elements, water towers, and more. This project serves as a model for sustainable redevelopment in West Africa and beyond. SWB's project partner, Christian Revival Church Association, is now in the fundraising and building phase using the delivered master plan.

Renewable Energy in Liberia | Kpondeh Town, Liberia (2015)

SWB installed a solar power water pump in one of the communities on the LAC rubber plantation in July 2014. The system includes water taps inside and outside the homes. LAC is happy with the project to date and has expressed possible interest in other renewable energy projects for their communities but the Ebola outbreak in Liberia stalled the project and made it difficult to travel in 2015. It also negatively affected LAC’s business providing them with limited funds for future projects. However, we still hope to continue to work with them in the future.

Maka Pads | Uganda (2015)

An SWB sponsored Master of Natural Resources Master Project, Strategic Options to Pursue Sustainable Market Access for Technology for Tomorrow Ltd.’s MakaPads product in Uganda, sought to explore options for Technology for Tomorrow, Ltd. to expand access of their sanitary napkin product, MakaPads, to local women in Uganda. 

This project sought to explore options for Technology for Tomorrow, Ltd. to expand access of their sanitary napkins product, MakaPad, to local women in Uganda.  At present, approximately 95% of Technology for Tomorrow, Ltd.’s MakaPad supply goes to the United Nations, where it is then redistributed for use in refugee camps, primarily in east African countries.  This both introduces significant risks for the company and restricts the supply of MakaPads available to be sold locally in Uganda, which was one of the original goals of the product.  The practicum team consisting of Meredith Reisfield and Kendra Moffet along with Jenna White travelled to Uganda to develop a list of possible strategic options for the company and prioritize these options according to their potential cost and impact in consultation with the Technology for Tomorrow leadership. The team developed an implementation plan for the most promising of these strategies and discussed next steps needed for Technology for Tomorrow, including capabilities needed to implement solutions, potential support from the University of Michigan and other outside sources, as well as remaining issues and potential challenges the company faces.

Aquaponics | Liberia (2013)

In the summer of 2013, SWB members from Michigan and Liberia designed and installed a solar-powered aquaponics system at the Christian Revival Church Association (CRCA) guest compound. Originally intended to serve as a prototype to be moved to another location, the CRCA Director immediately saw the promise of this system to alleviate some of the many challenges Liberians currently face and urged SWB to make this particular system a ‘model’ that could be replicated across the country.

EHELD Summer Camp | Liberia (2011-2013)

Curriculum development and teaching summer camps for young Liberian students interested in pursuing education and professional careers in Agriculture and Engineering. SWB partners with the USAID program, Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development (EHELD) and the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Sustainable Farm | Kpondeh Town, Liberia (2011 – 2012)

UNDP sponsored a grant for SWB to work alongside Christian Revival Church Association partners in creating a sustainable farm. The farm includes livestock, vegetables, and appropriate technologies for irrigation, as well as biodigester for anaerobic digestion of organic farm waste. The project benefits an elementary school by providing clean cooking facilities powered by the syngas from the biodigester.

Merry-Go-Round Electricity Generator and Playground | Konia, Liberia (2011)

In the town of Konia, an 8-hour drive from Monrovia, SWB implemented a full playground for Christian Revival Church Association's school. The playground includes a jungle gym, slides, and an electricity generating merry-go-round.