What to Consider When Designing Public Washrooms
28th May 2020
Public toilets are some of the most essential facilities in our day-to-day lives and yet so many of us find it difficult to come across adequate examples, whether it be at work, at school or at the park. However, designing the perfect washroom services is far from an easy task.
Not only are they a significant financial investment, but there are many considerations and checklists to acknowledge along the way. Whether they be legal requirements or design decisions, these all make a huge difference to how the public will experience and rate public washrooms.
What are the legal requirements for public washroom design?
One of the first design decisions you will need to consider when building public washrooms is whether or not they comply with legal standards. In the UK, this means that if you are providing public washrooms as an employer, you must comply with the following regulations:
- Separate facilities for men and women should be made available where possible. Where this is not possible, washrooms should be designed for just one person at a time and must have a door that locks from the inside to ensure privacy.
- If a public washroom contains more than four cubicles, it must be designed as suitable for people with disabilities. This means that the cubicle should be larger (minimum width of 1200mm) and have an outward opening door. A horizontal or vertical grab rail should also be included in the washroom design.
- Adequate waste disposal facilities should be provided in public washrooms and that includes sanitary bins for women’s public washrooms.
- As well as waste disposal, your public washroom design should ensure it is easy maintained and kept clean. This will affect your choice of materials and surfaces, as they will need to be easily cleaned on a regular basis.
- Public washrooms must also be designed in a way that ensures they are well ventilated to prevent lingering odors, not only in the washrooms themselves, but also to prevent odours from spreading to outside areas.
- Finally, public washrooms must be provided and stocked with necessary supplies and consumables such as soap and toilet paper and must have both cold and hot running water.
Though these are the most basic items on your washroom design checklist, it is likely that these factors will inform many of your other design decisions, especially when it comes to factoring in considerations such as budget and layout. For example, the more employees your company has, the more washrooms you will need to provide by law and so this may affect how much you are able to spend on a beautiful design or state of the art fittings. It is vital to remember that complying with regulations should always be the number one priority when designing public washrooms.
What sort of layout should you choose for public washrooms?
Adhering to legal standards will certainly play a role in where you will be able to build your public washrooms in the first place. For example, while you may wish to keep your washroom facilities in one place, the legal mandate to divide male and female facilities may force you to locate them in different parts of the building if there is no space large enough to accomodate them near each other.
However, there are also social factors to take into account when considering a washroom layout. For many people, using public facilities is still a taboo and somewhat embarrassing experience and privacy is hugely important in ensuring that everyone who used your public washroom has the most comfortable positive experience possible.
‘Shy bladder syndrome’ – particularly in men who sometimes have to use facilities in which urinals are situated very close together with no privacy whatsoever – affects people all over the world and causes a great deal of anxiety when nature calls while out and about. Of course, the ideal situation would be for all toilet cubicles to be designed as self-contained units with floor to ceiling walls and a solid door with a lock. However, due to either space of budgetary constraints, this is not always possible, particularly for larger companies.
However, creating privacy where you can is still a worthwhile investment for your employees and customers to leave with a good impression. Even adding adequate urinal screens, or ensuring that cupibals are floor to ceiling, even if they are not solid walls, at least give the user that little bit more reassurance.
What facilities and amenities should my public washroom have?
These days, a public washroom can feel like something out of a sci-fi novel if you really wanted it to. From super-fast-drying jet dryers to a completely contactless washroom experience, the sky really is the limit if you have the budget.
As tempting as it may be to design your washroom with all the latest gadgets and facilities, as long as the washroom fits its purpose and the public has access to the facilities they need, the washroom experience does not have to be a spectacle. For example, you may have touch-free soap dispensers and taps in order to add to the washroom experience, but if there are not enough sinks to begin with, then it’s likely visitors will have a negative experience.
Sometimes less really is more and the most important amenities and facilities to have are items such as toilet roll holders, working soap dispensers, good quality air dryers and even waste bins for hand towels. They are all items that perhaps go unnoticed on a daily basis, but make a noticable difference when they’re absent.
Once you know you have the basics, adding personal touches to the washroom is optional, but can make the washroom experience feel that little bit more luxurious. For example, providing moisturiser dispensers for people’s hands, investing in automatic air fresheners or even having music playing in the washroom will certainly make visitors take notice and feel more valued.
How does my public washroom affect my brand?
For most businesses, a washroom is often an untapped potential to make or break their branding and finishing touches are just one of the ways in which this is affected. You can impress and delight both your staff and visitors with your customer service and your brand, but it may all be for nothing if they decide to use the facilities and don’t like what they see.
An uninspiring or outright unpleasant public washroom can make anyone feel unwelcome and unloved. In a way, it sends the impression that while you may take care of your brand on the outside, there is little love being given to it behind the scenes.
Which is why, other than legal compliance and general logistics, the most important factor you should keep in mind when designing your public washrooms is whether or not they reflect who you are as a business. Your washrooms are not a secondary aspect of the business to be treated with less importance. They should be given the same attention and thought as your main entrance.
This not only means ensuring that they are clean and that all facilities and amenities are always working, stocked and available, but also that they are visually cohesive with the rest of your brand. Even if this means a slightly bigger financial investment, it helps visitors to feel as though they are a part of one environment as opposed to an afterthought.
If you want to go the extra mile when designing a washroom, a design that prioritises privacy, comfort and ease of use will always be a huge hit with anyone that visits and may even go as far as to earn you a mention on social media.
However, a washroom does not have to be all singing and all dancing to be well-designed. The washroom experience is something that will mostly go unnoticed when it’s done right, but ruin someone’s day when done poorly. More often than not, the things that make up a successful public washroom design are all very simple and involve good hygiene and working facilities.
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