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Public washroom design
Reduce touchpoints

When it comes to rethinking commercial bathroom spaces, James Walsh, leader of American Standard fixtures, shower, toilets and commercial, prioritizes the reduction of both shared touchpoints and opportunities for splashing in order to help keep pathogens from circulating. 

“The way we examine health, hygiene and the spread of germs has drastically changed over the past several months,” he says, pointing to the brand’s Paradigm Selectronic Integrated faucet (shown) as a sensor-activated fixture that entirely eliminates the need for touching. 

Public washroom design

It isn’t just sink areas, however, that could stand improving. “We are looking into ways to incorporate features from our existing portfolio of residential products into commercial bathroom design,” Walsh says, referring to such options as automatic open–close toilet seats and auto-flush for toilets and urinals, as well as extending current self-cleaning technologies to commercial toilets, urinals and lavatories and designing new products that limit splashing for fixtures and faucets.

Evolve to maximize safety
Public washroom design

When Dyson began developing its most recent commercial hand dryer — the Airblade 9kJ (below) — more than three years ago, it couldn’t have predicted the sudden and widespread impact that COVID-19 would have. Its recent introduction, therefore, has been especially timely. 

Stainless-steel (a first for Dyson hand dryers) and wall-mounted, the appliance marks a new phase in touchless technology, equipped as it is with internal blades that are curved rather than flat; this requires users to spread their hands instead of rubbing them together, which, as design engineer Giles Morgan notes, “is more hygienic, since rubbing can embed bacteria below the skin.” Producing up to 85 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than single-use paper towels, the unit also has a tubular HEPA filter that captures up to 99.9 per cent of airborne particles, including bacteria and viruses. And it offers two power modes to serve multiple settings: 

The Max (900 watts) is intended for high-volume spaces such as airports and malls, while the energy-efficient Eco (650 watts) is quieter and better suited to settings with noise abatement requirements, like libraries and workplaces.

Avoid unnecessary interaction

“Just as the iPod changed music and 9/11 changed air travel, COVID-19 will forever change bathroom design,” predicts Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development at Bradley Corp. For the past 11 years, the century-old Wisconsin-based commercial bathroom product manufacturer has been conducting public surveys to gauge the needs of its industry. 

With the most recent outreach, 91 per cent of respondents stated that touchless faucets, soap dispensers and  dryers were of the utmost importance in public washrooms — a number far above what the company had seen pre-pandemic. The third iteration of the brand’s Next Generation WashBar, a three-in-one unit that dispenses soap, water and warm air for drying (above), meets these newly emphasized concerns and also helps to limit people’s movements as they navigate from basins to (typically separate) hand dryers. 

Other aspects of public-bathroom design that Dommisse sees becoming the norm are modified layouts with curved corridors instead of doors and increased space between sinks.

How to Ensure Safer Public Washrooms in 3 Steps

In the age of COVID-19, what can designers do to protect users in public lavatories? Three manufacturers of commercial bathroom products weigh in.

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