Japanese Elevators Could Come With Their Own Toilets Soon


Japan is currently considering a measure that would, essentially, turn every elevator into a port-a-potty. According to a report from the Kyodo news agency, the country’s infrastructure ministry might make plumbing and running water a must in elevators. 

The proposal may seem over-the-top at first—what, you can’t wait til you get to your floor?—but the move would be in the interest of public safety. Japan is a dense country with a lot of skyscrapers, in a region notorious for its earthquakes. Last week, a powerful quake hit just off the coast of Japan near Tokyo, and 19,000 elevators slid to a stop in the aftermath. People were trapped in 14 different elevators across the capital, and it took as long as 70 minutes to rescue them. 

Image Credit: Shaunacy Ferro, iStock

But getting trapped for a little more than an hour isn’t the worst case scenario. In 1999, a man got stuck in an office elevator in Manhattan for an entire holiday weekend, spending a harrowing 41 hours stuck in a closed steel box without access to water or a bathroom. There are about 150,000 elevators in Tokyo, and historically, they tend to stop during earthquakes. In 2005, an earthquake stopped 64,000 elevators. In 2011, a quake trapped people in 84 elevators for more than nine hours before emergency personnel could get to them. One Tokyo neighborhood has already begun testing emergency boxes for elevators that contain blankets and water, with the boxes themselves doubling as makeshift chamber pots

Earthquakes are an ever-present danger, but people who live and work in high-rises can’t just up and stop using their elevators. As buildings get taller and taller, it’s not a bad idea to start planning for what happens when elevators malfunction, trapping people inside for hours or days. In an emergency, access to sanitation and clean water are essential. So yeah—bring on the vertical toilet mover. 

[h/t: Washington Post via Smithsonian]

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

This Just In
What Do You Get the Person Who Has Everything? Perhaps a German Village for Less Than $150,000

Looking for a gift for the world traveler who has everything? If cost isn't an issue and they're longing for a quiet country home, Fortune reports that an entire village in East Germany is up for sale. The tiny hamlet of Alwine, in Germany's Brandenburg region, is going up for auction on Saturday, December 9. Opening bids begin at $147,230.

Alwine has around one dozen buildings and 20 full-time residents, most of them elderly. It was once owned by a neighboring coal plant, which shut down in 1991, soon after East Germany reunited with West Germany. Many residents left after that. Between 1990 and 2015, the regional population fell by 15 percent, according to The Local.


In 2000, a private investor purchased the decaying hamlet for just one Deutsche Mark (the currency used before the euro). But its decline continued, and now it's up for grabs once more—this time around, for a much-higher price.

Andreas Claus, the mayor of the district surrounding Alwine, wasn't informed of the village's sale until he heard about it in the news, according to The Local. While no local residents plan to purchase their hometown, Claus says he's open to fostering dialogue with the buyer, with hopes of eventually revitalizing the local community.

[h/t Fortune]


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