This Could Be the Biggest Advance in Toilet Design in Over a Hundred Years

CC BY 2.0. Ivan Gochko with his Orca Helix toilets/ Lloyd Alter

The Orca Helix moves up and down so that it is easy to get on and off when high, easy on the body when low.

Many things have changed in the last hundred years, but one thing that has hardly changed at all is the toilet. And as we have been saying on TreeHugger for what feels like a hundred years, it's all wrong. Our bodies are designed to squat, yet instead, we sit on 14 inch high seats, which actually makes it hard to poop. As we get older, or fatter, people have trouble even getting on a 14-inch seat and buy "comfort height" toilets, which make it even harder to poop. It is exactly the wrong thing to do, causing constipation, hemorrhoids, and worse.

Ivan pondering toilets

Ivan pondering toilets / Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Original Design

Four years ago, inventor Ivan Gochko thought about the problems his aging mother was having and started working on a new toilet design that would address these problems. His toilet would move up and down so that one could get on it when it was high, and then the toilet could be lowered to 10 inches from the floor. The fancy model also tilted forward and 45 degrees to each side. It also had a scrubber to sanitize the seat, a bidet jet, and ultraviolet disinfecting of the bowl. It looks like some toilet-sized transformer. (It's the one on the right that Ivan is pondering.)

Orca helix toilet

Orca Helix toilet/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Orca Helix

But getting those three axes of movement was expensive, and the big, important move is vertical, so Ivan has introduced the Orca Helix, a simpler model that moves up and down, from 10 inches to 21 inches. It can hold up to 300 pounds and change positions in fifteen seconds. It's a more elegant design, with the bowl moving up and down around a cylinder that encloses the vacuum pump and motors. It fits right over a standard toilet ring, you just screw it into the floor and plug it into cold water and electricity.

It still has the fancy sanitizing features (now built into the lid), scrubbing the seat and using ultraviolet light in the bowl. The Orca Helix uses "patented vacuum-assisted technology for flushing, which will cut your flushed water to under 0.6 gallons. An average toilet uses 3.6 gallons of water with every flush." It also has a bidet but no dryer, which Ivan thinks is unsanitary.

kira toilet image

Back in the sixties, Alexander Kira designed a toilet around human ergonomics rather than plumbing, with the seat just 9 inches from the floor. It never caught on, being too radical a switch. TreeHugger has also shown squatty potties and other toilet modifications that put people into a squatting position. These require some level of flexibility and agility to use. Kira also thought it needed a separate urinal because the low bowl is easy for a man to miss.

But the Orca Helix doesn't have those issues. You can get onto it easily when it is high, and drop it as low as you want. It does all the heavy lifting. When it is up at its maximum height, it is hard for men to miss when they pee.


Our bodies are designed so that when we are sitting or standing, the puborectalis muscle holds our poop in. The closer we get to squatting, the straighter it is and the easier it is to poop. The worst thing we can do, especially for older people, is to get a "comfort height" toilet. In fact, the lower the better.

toilet composite image

© Orca Helix

That's why Ivan Gochko's Orca Helix really is one of the most interesting innovations in toilet design in the last hundred years. It's the best of both worlds.