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The Utility Barrow

The Urban Wheelbarrow can also help address the issues experienced during a severe flood.

  • Initial Concept

  • The Utility Barrow

    The Utility Barrow

  • Context 1

  • Context 2

  • Engineering Drawing

  • Hero Shot

What it does

The Urban Wheelbarrow can also help address the issues experienced during a severe flood.

Your inspiration

A case study of Kampung Melayu, Indonesia was conducted as a university research report, as part of a Global Design unit. Kampung Melayu is a low socio economic community built along the Ciliwung river, and is subject to flooding 3-4 times per year. The aim of the design project was to either mitigate the risk of the flood, or improve the experience. Key findings that inspired this design: Contaminated Waters Lack of Security of Possessions Keeping Possessions Dry Inefficient and Dangerous Evacuation Clearing Rubbish and Debris Pre-Flood Cleaning Mud and Debris Post-Flood Forced Evacuation (Second Storey Flood) Travel During High Floods

How it works

The body of the Utility Barrow is a hollow, sealed, rotational moulded part. Having two seperate surfaces allowed the design to be optimised around different needs. The interior face was designed and optimised for comfortably sitting a human as well as being functional as a wheel barrow, while the underside achieved a maximum buoyant force to support 300kg on the water, while maintaining balanced flotation and support for the internal face. Having the body sealed results in a contained air pocket, meaning in the unlikely event of a capsize, the barrow, when full of water, still maintains a buoyant force equal to 200kg.

Design process

Competition?: The first test conducted was to disprove that any wheelbarrow could easily be used in a similar manner. Success, the test resulted in a sunken wheelbarrow. Anthropometrics: User centred design was a focus for the design, with a goal to comfortably sit 5th percentile women through to 95th percentile men. This research resulted in constrains on minimal dimensions. Lifting Forces: Larger capacity meant a heavier load, calculations were undertaken to determine a suitable length handle to achieve a lever arm to suit. Buoyancy and stability: Engineering calculations on overall buoyancy, and the position of equilibrium of an empty barrow and a barrow with a human sitting in it. These calculations resulted in reducing the overall buoyancy to increase stability, and the introduction of a heavier wheel to balance out the loading of a human. Prototyping: Cardboard 1:1 scale models where built to test the overall size and usability. Interaction when tipping resulted in a redesign of the leg shapes. Manufacturability: Consultation with rotational moulding experts resulted in the introduction of underside ribbing to support the 'seat' and improved handle design for manufacturability.

How it is different

The only wheelbarrow on the market designed to be used as a personal watercraft, with buoyancy and stability in mind. Year round use as a traditional wheelbarrow or vendor cart, then utilised for evacuation and transport during annual flood times.

Future plans

The users this design is aimed at are generally of low-socio-economic status. Therefore selling direct to the user is not feasible. The future plans would be to further refine the design for optimal production, and partner with an aid agency such as the Red Cross or an international partner who could purchase this product and provide to communities in need.


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