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Iota aims to make the toilet smaller, more efficient


March 5, 2014

Iota was designed as a final-year project at the UK's University of Huddersfield

Iota was designed as a final-year project at the UK's University of Huddersfield

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It took thousands of years for the humble toilet to evolve into the model we use today, but there's always room for improvement. With this in mind, Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley produced the Iota: a folding toilet concept that's smaller and more efficient than the typical loo.

Designed as a final-year project while Humphreys and Whiteley studied at the UK's University of Huddersfield, the Iota sports a novel folding flush mechanism that moves the entire toilet into an upright position. This also means it takes up just a third of the space of a standard toilet when not in use – perhaps making it a good fit for enthusiasts of tiny homes.

The Iota is also far more efficient, using just 2.5 liters (0.6 US gallons) of water per flush, compared to 6 liters (1.6 US gallons) for an average toilet. The designers reckon that Iota could save an impressive 10,000 liters (2,641 US gallons) per person, per year, in typical use.

The folding bowl contains a built-in U bend that disengages from the waste pipe when in the seated position. When the flush mechanism is activated by folding the toilet into its upright position, the U bend reengages simultaneously. There's an air-tight seal to ensure that the waste stays right where it needs to be.

Though a concept at present, Humphreys and Whiteley have submitted a patent application for their design, and the pair are looking to sell the idea in the future. In the meantime, Iota has been entered into the RSA's Re-invent the toilet competition.

The demonstration video below was created by Humphreys and Whiteley's animation company.

Source: Behance via Design Boom

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Nice design, and saving water is always good.

However, a large sliding seal like the one needed inside this unit is the worst idea ever since the invention of the flush toilet.

And all the while not taking advantage of the only other potential benefit such a design could have: Using the space when not using the toilet. Shape it so it can be used as a seat when the toilet is flipped up.


I concur. moving parts in the drainage plumbing = job security for plumbers.


Is there actually demand for a folding toilet? I have lived in places with tiny bathrooms, but all were very low rent places, and this does not look cheap. If they really wanted to make something useful, a self cleaning toilet is a winner. Nobody likes cleaning toilets.

Michael Crumpton

Agreed, the air-tight seal is absolutely guaranteed to wear out with rather unpleasant results.

Also, the design requires twice the water usage than that stated because there would be the overwhelming desire to pull it down again to use the toilet brush and thus ensure that one had not left a record of one's 'performance' on the throne, to put it as delicately as I can, or less delicately: WTSHTP.

Mel Tisdale

This will be rejected by many people because you cannot flush while sitting on it. The seal is a big concern. What happens when the pipe clogs during a flush? The waste valve makes it impossible to use a plunger or drain snake. Now a tankless toilet that sits next to the wall that would be a winner.


I think the concept is very good. It would be excellent for ensuite bathrooms where space can be a problem. I do however have a concern with the design. The gap at the back where the wall and floor join could be a real grime catcher. May I suggest that the design sit flush with the wall so there is no space. Water, dirt (and whatever) could collect after time and create quite a health hazard. I also agree that if the 'top' could be redesigned so you could use it for a seat or to temporarily put things on it, this would improve the usability. Good luck with the plumbing!


pardon my language, but that tight u-bend looks like a bottleneck for any large floaters


I don't want to have to touch a toilet, these toilets need to be designed better for men to use.

Ritchard Mckie

Interesting. But I can think of some major problems and concerns, some are mentioned by others here.

Plus, I can't see any need for this.


Sorry, the idea is false. When you pull it down to sit on you still need as much room, probably more because of the design. So it doesn't really save space and probably takes up more.

Second, as people have pointed out you need to touch the toilet -- the trend is now towards auto-flush toilets where you don't need to touch.

Finally, it would be a real problem when you pull a muscle in your back - you can't even flush it until you fold it back. A problem for the elderly and kids too.


Whether this design is feasible is debatable, but it does make me think of a possible health benefit that the rotating design could do. The best way to eliminate solids, is to squat (so that your internal "plumbing" is straightened out), like on those nasty "two foot-pads over a hole" toilets . Among other things, squatting cuts way down on the incidence of hemorrhoids. To avoid an unsupported squat by sitting on something, have this toilet fold part way down for use. Thus, when you hold your back straight up, your knees are right next to your belly. The problem with a fixed angle toilet would be the fact that people have different waist sizes as well as different amounts of flexibility and strength. The angle used would have to vary with the user. Perhaps when one is done the bowl could go to the typical sitting position to ease getting up.

Bob Pegram

Any toilet design that involves water is outdated


A toilet that can't be flushed while sitting on it is a recipe for messy, stinky disaster.

The people who designed this have likely never been sick with a bug that gives them diarrhea over and over again for a few hours, so often you're pretty much stuck on the loo with a big bottle of water to prevent dehydration, then finally you clench up and make it to the medicine cabinet, gulp down an immodium AD and sprint back to the throne for one final blast before the stopper kicks in - and in a few minutes you're feeling just fine, tired but no longer feeling sick at all. Worst way ever to lose 10 pounds, without even intending to do that.

This kind of toilet in such a situation? No, just no!

Gregg Eshelman

I think that in constant daily use in the average family household, the seals would wear and leakage would become a problem . [Also small children may have a serious problem operating it]

However, it may well be the ideal device for caravans, or mobile homes, where space is it a premium, and the habitation numbers are limited, and usage is relatively infrequent.


Thanks to Mr Crapper we are all flushed with ideas my only concerns is it able to support some of the larger and bigger posteriors of today's population and to save on water can we microwave the crap into dust.

Jesse Brown

The best thing about this toilet is the video. Superbly produced!

The 'space saving' is irrelevant. You can't use the space when the toilet is folded, because you would need to move things to use the toilet. It seems to stand out from the wall quite a long way.

David Clarke

I am amazed that so much effort is put in to redesign the toilet. When will someone decide to bring the paper out front so you can reach it and use it without a double jointed elbow? What is wrong with bringing it out to the right hand wall instead of back behind you?

I remember watching a do-it-yourself video where the lady carpenter had just finished installing the toilet and said to the camera "Now is the time to find a convenient place for that toilet paper holder", then she reached behind her with her left hand, not looking where and made a mark on the wall. If that is the skill she mounted the toilet with I will wait until I get home to use the toilet.

In my opinion the paper should go about six inches in front of and above the knee closest to the wall in front of you. This way maybe more people will think about using it more often. Including the children that cannot reach the wall behind them.

Theadore J Stone

I don't believe the designer of this has ever used any form of tools and ever had to repair anything involved in plumbing or they would know the seal on this will probably have less than a 6 months lifespan at best in the average household. It's pretty but that's ALL it has going for it.

Lee Bell

The comments on the original article really get into the major flaws in the design. http://www.designboom.com/technology/iota-folding-toilet-reduces-its-size-and-water-consumption-03-04-2014/

Good animation, though. I wish I had access to such CAD tools when I was a working industrial designer 40 years ago!

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