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Inaugural £10,000 WAF Water Research Prize winner announced

Students from Pontifical Catholic University of Peru design a winning water-management system that is innovative and community-led

The inaugural Water Research Prize, supported by WAF founder-partner GROHE, has been won by an innovative, community-led water management system, designed by a team of students from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PCUP), which captures, stores and treats rainwater and inserts it into pre-existing water networks.

The PCUP team beat a shortlist of 12 projects drawn from over 60 entries who were assessed by a panel including Henk Ovink, the world’s only ‘water ambassador’, or rather, the first special envoy for international water affairs for the kingdom of the Netherlands. Each entrant was asked to identify a new challenge or opportunity relating to design and water, and in doing so advance an understanding of water in relation to the built environment. The £10,000 prize money, presented by GROHE, will supplement existing research that seeks to outline ways in which human settlements in the Amazon rainforest can better adapt to their specific environmental and cultural context.

View from kitchen sink side of PCUP's 'water-wall'

View from kitchen sink side of PCUP’s ‘water-wall’

The design team’s focus was to overcome the challenges around the integration of water and sewage provision in the Peruvian Amazon, where only 31 per cent of the population has access to water, despite living in an area with the highest levels of annual rainfall worldwide. Differing from a traditional water tank system, the PCUP team developed a ‘water wall’ made up of a pitched roof and a system of tubes that capture, store and treat rainwater, and simultaneously serve as a non-load-bearing, permeable wall that can be more easily integrated with existing architecture. The number of tubes can be increased or decreased according to the user’s water needs. The nature of the pipe wall facilitates ventilation while providing shade.


PCUP's winning design for a water management system

PCUP’s winning design for a water management system

By designing an independent system from conventional networks, the designers sought to reduce the costs of implementation and maintenance that such networks generate. The communal and cooperative system reduces costs per family. In the same way, its communal use promotes activities such as washing clothes and cooking, that generate public platforms for inclusion and dialogue.

Women participate together in PCUP's winning design for a water management system

Women participate together in PCUP’s winning design for a water-management system

Paul Finch, programme director of the World Architecture Festival, commented: ‘Ingeniously addressing the ironic condition that communities in the Amazon do not have adequate water despite having the highest rainfall in the world, this proposed communal water management system admirably addresses both the social community and environmental challenges interlinked with water shortage and quality. Plus, it is an adaptable idea, there is the ability to replicate the design in similar environmental terrains. It is a worthy winner of our inaugural WAF Water Research Prize.’

Belen Desmaison, teaching fellow at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, commented: ‘We are very grateful for this award as it will allow us and the communities in the Amazon rainforest that work with us to continue to explore alternatives for the provision of water to peri-urban and rural areas. We aim to use this opportunity to work on the production of a rainwater storage system made using local materials and knowledge that can be easily integrated with traditional architectural typologies’.