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


Cobra takes plumbing design to a new level

By: Kelly-Ann Prinsloo – writer

Cobra, a stalwart of the plumbing industry, has taken design to a new level by introducing a competition to encourage young people to take up the mantle of bringing the plumbing industry into the future

The Cobra Product Design Competition, initiated in 2013, has seen young people from all walks of life working to take innovative plumbing design from the drawing board to the shelves of merchants everywhere.

Over the next few months, Plumbing Africa will bring you the profiles of winners from the two previous competitions, to see what drove them to enter the competition and how winning has changed their lives.

Our first profile features Alexandra Böhmer (23) and Michael Hobbs (24), who entered the 2014 Cobra Product Design Competition as a team and took home the prize for the Cobra Duo, a sleek and sophisticated tap, designed for use in modern kitchens.

Böhmer, who hails from Paarl, South Africa, and Hobbs, a native of Harare, Zimbabwe, both studied architecture. They entered the Cobra competition because of the challenge it presented. “We thought it would was an interesting challenge and a different way to apply our design thinking on a smaller scale,” said Böhmer. This competition would be the first time the duo was exposed to the plumbing industry at large, but probably not the last.

The concept for the Cobra Duo arose out of considering the modern kitchen and how the kitchen has become centre of the home in terms of the variety of activities that it has to cater for nowadays.

Böhmer and Hobbs wanted to create a tap that was simple and could easily be used in common kitchen situations by people of all ages. “When your hands are dirty or when you are carrying something big or heavy, the tap is easily activated with a simple lift of the lever, designed so that one can even activate it with your elbow,” said Hobbs. The tap, described as ‘sleek and sculptural’ by its makers, is not only functional but also aesthetically ideal for modern kitchens.

“It also integrates the induction heating technology, and the idea of the two halves in our design was also inspired by hot and cold water coming together in the mixer,” Böhmer said. “Simplicity was a core aspect of our design, so the idea is that a plumber should be able to install it easily.”

She added that the Cobra Product Design Competition has broadened the way in which she and Hobbs design, and has reemphasised the fact that design has no strict borders or distinctions between different disciplines. “We were never really aware of how interesting and broad the product design field was, so it [the Cobra Product Design Competition] has opened up that world for us.”

Böhmer and Hobbs’ prototype tap will be released by Cobra later this year.

Read more about this feature in Plumbing Africa May page 14.

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