Design and Construction

‘Design and Construction (D&C)’ is a key element of the programme/project cycle and is the means to translate project plan into the ground for achieving the objectives. Proper Needs assessment and analysis and strategic planning are key for proper D&C. For sanitation, it is crucial for protecting public health and preventing the spread of diseases. Conversely, inadequate ‘D&C’ often not only leads to a gap in service access but can also have unintended negative consequences.

Key Actions

Step 1: Design/develop sanitation solutions using a human-centred approach aligning with the needs and preferences of the affected population.

Step 2: Ensure timely D&C to address sanitation needs, especially in acute response phase of the emergency.

Step 3: Foster collaboration and community engagement throughout the D&C process ensuring that the project adheres to established standards and is responsive to the community‘s need.

Step 4: Develop a comprehensive Operations and Maintenance (O&M) plan from the outset by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.

Step 5: Integrate long-term planning into D&C to create a resilient and sustainable sanitation system.

Step 6: Identify critical parameters and activities and carry out proactive monitoring to ensure that the project is on track, adheres to timelines, and anticipating any logistical challenges.


Adequate sanitation facilities are essential to maintain public health and prevent the spread of diseases, particularly in emergency settings where the risk of waterborne and sanitation-related diseases is heightened. Proper D&C of sanitation interventions, such as toilets, handwashing stations, and wastewater management systems, ensure that people have access to hygienic facilities, reducing the risk of illness and promoting better overall health. Proper D&C is crucial for protecting public health, maintaining dignity, promoting well-being, safeguarding the environment, and establishing resilient systems that can support the affected population throughout the different phases of an emergency setting.


D&C in a project is carried out once a strategic plan has been developed, which involves multiple iterations, consultations and feedback loops. D&C is the channel for translating the project strategy into actual, on-the-ground sanitation intervention. Therefore, proper D&C is critical to achieving desired project outcomes.


  1. People-Centred D&C: Considering the needs assessment and analysis and strategic planning, D&C should be based on the needs and acceptance of the target population and should tackle their problem/issues. This is the primary guiding principle. An excellent “engineering design” might not necessarily lead to optimal project outcomes. For example, a twin-pit design for sanitary toilets might not have the best treatment outcomes but would well serve needs of a small, isolated community without access to a regular supply of water. A flush-toilet might be a better engineering solution, but might have operations issues in the medium and long-term. The needs of the population must be the centre of the entire design process.
  2.  Time for Implementation: In times of humanitarian crises timely response is key. Therefore D&C should allow for quick implementation and roll-out. Quality sanitation responses should be timely and efficient and be able reach most inaccessible and difficult places, too. For example, trenching/magic pits for blackwater treatment might be a more suitable short-term solution for a refugee camp, as opposed to designing a complex sewerage treatment plant which might take months for setting up.
  3. Consultative and Participatory D&C: Effective leadership and coordination support the sanitation response in difficult environments and help overcome poor-quality programming. It also ensures, that the responses to priority needs are appropriate and timely using the agreed standards to mitigate public and environmental health risks. Community feedback and participation is also important for effectiveness of the sanitation intervention. Fostering partnerships with local organisation, local authorities and communities is critical to project outcomes and can help quick access and adoption. It also allows for adherence to local regulations, laws etc. For example, while designing shared toilets in Kushtia, Bangladesh, the project didn’t consult and engage with relevant stakeholders and later the design was revised by local elected representatives to account for flood situations, which delayed the project interventions.
  4. Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Plan: Developing a suitable O&M plan is critical to sustainable service delivery without which project outcomes might not be met and it should be considered during D&C. A well-defined O&M plan also clearly defines roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders – authorities, aid agencies, community, private service providers etc. For example, while setting up a Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant, there should be a O&M plan for who desludges the Faecal Sludge (FS), when they desludge, where the FS would dumped, who monitors etc.
  5. Long-term Planning and Building Sustainability: The D&C should incorporate long-term planning and should not be looked as a one-off intervention. Where any sanitation system is existing, it should be built into the existing system by evaluating existing infrastructure and complementing them. For example, in case of increasing population, the design of an intervention should allow for quick scaling-up, also the choice of material and technology is to be considered accordingly. If the sanitation system can be connected to existing treatment systems, it should be integrated.
  6. Effective Monitoring: D&C should also feed in to developing a proper Implementation & Monitoring. Any critical activity and parameter than needs to be monitored should be clearly identified during the D&C. For example, if the project is constructing a treatment plant that required any equipment that needs to imported, it has to be clearly stated and adequate time has to be planned.
Author(s) (1)
Jutta Camargo
Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA)
Reviewer(s) / Contributor(s) (2)
Tobias Ulbrich
Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA)
Shirish Singh
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

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