The future of plumbing design

By: Winston Huff, in association with Smith Seckman and Reid Engineers, and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE)

We take a look at how members of the plumbing industry are beginning to look at the plumbing systems in relation to the other design disciplines

Read more: The future of plumbing design

Feline precision, plumbing perfection

By: Kelly-Ann Prinsloo – writer

twittericon #CobraDesigncompetition

Murray Sharp is this month’s featured Cobra Design competition winner, who took first place with the Lynx, a high-end tap designed for functionality and purpose

In the 2013 Cobra Design competition, Murray Sharp’s Aloe Correct design took home the silver in the Best Tap/Mixer Design (Individuals/Professionals) category. But that wasn’t good enough for the 25 year old Durbanite, who returned to the competition in 2014 and won in the same category with his sleek and sophisticated Lynx mixer.

Sharp grew up in Port Shepstone, a small town on South Africa’s south coast. He left the coast to study industrial design at the University of Johannesburg, but later returned after receiving his BTech degree. He now lives and works in Durban.

“Industrial design covers a very broad field of design,” Sharp said, when asked how he got involved with the Cobra Design competition. “Essentially, we could design any product for any field with the right research. I was contacted by Ronelle Badenhorst (Cobra’s business unit manager). She asked me if I would be interested in entering the competition. I was immediately interested. A tap is a product that lends itself well to design. Clever functional tweaks, unique material choices, human/product interaction and beautiful form design all form part of a perfect product design challenge.”

Feline precision
Sharp’s design is named after the lynx, a wild cat that possesses incredible agility and flexibility. “The design thinking behind the Lynx concept was: How to take the induction heating technology and harness it to its full potential. It’s a design philosophy that asks why not; instead of why. If induction heating technology was to be incorporated in this tap, why not include electronics elsewhere on the tap? If this induction technology is expensive, why not design a luxury, top of the range tap that justifies its price tag? If this tap is top of the range, why not have it perform multiple functions that make your life simpler?”

A prototype of Sharp’s first foray into plumbing design, the Aloe tap, was unveiled at the 2014 prize giving and Sharp said he was blown away by the amazing job Cobra did in translating his design into an actual prototype. “Being the designer, I know where I pushed the boundaries and cut corners to produce a good picture. The amount of work and engineering that goes into actually developing a product as unique as mine is unprecedented. So, my hat goes off to the team at Cobra for managing to do this. That being said, the prototype is not exactly the same as my design – especially the handle, which has become a lot more elaborate.” Sharp added, however, that his design was not totally realistic and he understood that changes had to be made in order to create a practical product. “I am thrilled with the way the prototype came out, and am proud to put my name to it.”

One of the benefits of winning was that the prize money helped Sharp pay for his honeymoon. But more importantly, the exposure he has received via traditional and social media has added value to his portfolio. “Many people have heard about my work because of Cobra, and it has opened the door for new opportunities,” said Sharp.

Ease of installation
Sharp explained that, while the Aloe tap is straight forward and easy to install, the Lynx is slightly more complicated. “Over and above the standard tap body installation and plumbing, an induction heating box would have to be mounted to the wall under the cupboard, and possibly some basic wiring would have to be installed in order to allow the tap interface to communicate with the induction heating device and solenoid valves. But, Sharp adds, It’s nothing a plumber couldn't handle.”

Check out the gallery below

Plumbing by design

Twenty-seven year old Leigh McClaren was born in Cape Town and raised in Port Elizabeth, where she studied architecture at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. She became involved in plumbing design when she realised what an impact design can make on water conservation.

A candidate architect at b4 Architects in Port Elizabeth, McClaren is passionate about design. “My mixer, Ceramic Lace, was inspired by ceramic as a material,” said Mclaren. “Ceramic is at the forefront of bathroom design, but it also has its roots in South African art. This allows the mixer to be more than just a functional element, and representative of its time and place.”

McClaren became involved in the arena of plumbing design when, after hearing about the Cobra Design competition, she realised what an impact design could make on saving water. South Africa, and many other parts of the world, finds itself in a situation where water, our most vital resource, is becoming scarce. The plumbing industry, especially within the field of plumbing design, is in the unique position of being able to directly affect South Africa’s crisis, either for better or worse. In McClaren’s case, it’s for the better.

“I've always been interested in product design and I have a serious soft spot for ecological design. So I became very motivated when I realised I had an opportunity to design something that could potentially have an impact in saving water.”

The Aqueduct – a winning design


By: Kelly-Ann Prinsloo – writer

Kirsty Keet (26), born and raised in Gauteng’s city of gold, Johannesburg, is a student of industrial design at the University of Johannesburg. The Cobra competition was her first introduction to plumbing design. Keet said that, in order to understand various tap components and manufacturability, she went on a Cobra factory tour. “I explored various faucet types by disassembling and exploring existing parts.” It was there that she learnt about the competition.

“I thought that the Cobra competition would be an exciting challenge and afford me the opportunity to learn a great deal about this field. It was also a brilliant chance to experiment with the aesthetic and design of ordinary taps in a new and innovative way.”

Which is exactly what Cobra hoped for when this competition began. Ronelle Badenhorst, Cobra’s business unit manager, said, “The competition fosters a platform for innovation and exploration in design.”

The Aqueduct
Keet explained that the Aqueduct tap is a unique design which incorporates standard faucet components and induction water heating technology. “It consists of multiple small pipes which direct water to a collection basin where it accumulates and pours out in a continuous flow.”

The tap draws on notions of optical illusion and brings about a sense of awareness regarding the origin of water. Keet went on to say that the Aqueduct’s distinct form creates a sense of interest and intrigue. “The sculptural faucet goes beyond function in its attempts to push the boundaries of design within this field. The elegant, slender form is inspired by current design trends seen in lighting, furniture and textile design. An ‘industrial chic’ aesthetic is obtained through the use of black and copper colours. These colours emanate a sense of luxury and as a result would be intended for the high end tap market.”

The finished product
Keet said the final product is a refined version of her original concept, and has been developed through multiple sketches and computer renderings. Because of those processes, the final product is a natural evolution of Keet’s design and she said she is very happy with the outcome as it satisfies all the requirements.

The design is very easy to install because it is fitted much like a standard tap, which simply screws into the counter. Two cold water pipes are directed into the tap and one pipe passes through an induction coil which is situated inside the tap body which rapidly heats the water. The hot and cold water converges and mixes. The mixed water is directed into 8x4mm, individual, black powder-coated, dezincification resistant (DZR) pipes. The water passes through an aerator at the tap’s head, which allows for a continuous stream of water. Water is controlled with a standard quarter turn head fixture.

Winning the Cobra Design competition has profoundly benefited Keet’s life in terms of exposure and experience as a designer. “I feel very fortunate to have met so many wonderful individuals along the road and it has put me I good stead for my future. The outcome of the competition has made me very determined and has clarified my career direction.”

View the Aqueduct Tap gallery


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