Once upon a time, about 2 months ago, I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Istanbul… for good. My love affair with the city took hold of me during several visits over the last 2 years visiting my girlfriend and family. I always romanticized this place, and really got to know the realities of the city and business landscape of opportunities open to me with these visits. I moved here to start http://KatKatAtolye.com , a Fablab, and through it, seed the subculture of the “maker movement”. I’ll save all the good reasons for KatKat for another post… This post is about a very specific story – this story is about the stink of ancient sewers – and how 3D printing saved my nose and my sanity.
I did an extended stay in Cihangir last summer. A cool area, a mix of Park Slope’s young cofe/wine sipping stroller culture and Williamsburg’s hipster beards and loafers. Safe and homogeneous with a seaside view. There was just one thing that bothered me here… this awesome little apt near the sea had a subtle stink to it. Fast fwd to now, I live in a different area of Beyoglu (the same body of land) and the smell in my new apt was immediately familiar. After a bit of research, I learned this whole area suffers from this subtle musty stink and people who have lived here their whole lives said they are simply used to it! Learning this kind of blew me away, a populous and modern urban sprawl is just dealing with the downside of its ancient sewers. The young turks (pun intended) have become expert at public protest, everything #diren has such a unique creativity to it…. well I protest. I am a hardware hacker and a Maker, hacking a legacy issue with the Byzantine’s firmware shouldn’t be tough.
Investigating the plumbing, I learned that there is a straight shot from every drain to external pipes, which are a straight shot into terra, and presumably sewers built with an Italian accent. Air floats up through pipes and into living spaces unobstructed. I noticed the strength of the miasma was weaker on windy days, so I thought a trip to the roof was in order. The subtle smell in my apt was especially strong directly over the drain pipe of the rain gutter…. Bingo. I had my experiment. I bought a low power blower fan from Karakoy (our version of Shenzen, China), low power to minimize noise. I jumped into rhino and designed the pictured top and bottom pieces. The bottom piece, a shaft that fits into the drainage pipe while resting slightly above the gutter allows rain water to run down, while focusing the fans effectiveness about 7 inches downpipe. The top piece protects the fan from rainfall. I brought 1 of my Makerbots to Turkey and printed off these objects. I then adhered them to the blower using VHB double sided tape, ran an electric cord…. Success! The blower sent concentrated stink gas outward, and my apt no longer smelled. In fact, I solved the smell for the whole 5 story building. The true test was the following week, I was away, the apt sat lonely with windows shuttered. This surely would have resulted in a hot box of sewer smell upon my return. One week later I opened the door to the smell of the nothingness. It’s been recommended that I productize my cute little invention. The part of this story I really love is that the 3d printed prototype could be the final product, from printer to gutter, as it were.
That’s my first (hopefully of many) maker projects design and executed here in Istanbul. This one’s not going on kickstarter, but stay tuned because the next one is :)