Nearly two years into a global pandemic, commercial restroom design has started to strongly reflect a world that looks very different from just a few years ago.
The people responsible for building and renovating commercial restrooms—architects, designers, engineers, and facility owners and managers—understand that new priorities have emerged.
Record numbers of workers are changing jobs or leaving the workforce entirely. People have grown more concerned about climate change and environmental sustainability. And, of course, hygiene is a paramount consideration for anyone visiting any type of public facility.
We spoke with Sloan Senior Manager Kim Darke-Miller about these trends and what they mean for commercial restroom design. Here are the questions she sees architects and designers addressing in 2022—and beyond.
Will People Be Comfortable Working Here?
“Workplace strategy has gotten more attention in recent years,” says Darke-Miller. “Companies need to ask themselves, ‘What are we doing to keep people happy? How are we arranging our office to be flexible? What amenities does our office or building have that will enhance our employees’ sense of comfort?’”
These questions are essential in 2022 because, as we’ve seen, people can easily work from home. They can readily change jobs to find one where their working arrangement is more comfortable.
According to Darke-Miller, restroom designers and architects are addressing the need for worker comfort with sleek, timeless design and neutral colors. “The designers I talk to the most are taking advantage of numerous finishes available for commercial restrooms that we typically see only in residential design, so they can continue their cohesive color scheme throughout the restroom. For example, if they choose a Graphite finish for faucets and flushometers, then they know their latches and grab bars will also be graphite.”
These touches often work on a subconscious level. Darke-Miller says, “Think about walking into the restroom at your new place of work and you see a sensor faucet with the same really cool black tone you have in your kitchen at home. You’re going to feel like, ‘Oh wow, they’re really paying attention to what is current here.’”
She also noted a hospitality trend—where maintaining staff levels has been especially difficult—where back-of-house restrooms are as important as lobby restrooms. “People are more willing to look at different materials to get that same design aesthetic that’s still absolutely beautiful but at a lower price point. You're showing your essential workers—the staff behind the scenes—that they matter as much as your guests and clients. Making them feel great about where they work speaks to the type of company you are and is really thoughtful.”
Does This Restroom Protect the Environment?
Another facet of making workers comfortable in a space is being able to reassure them that their buildings are environmentally sustainable. Many architects, designers and engineers share this concern as well.
“There is a continued push for sustainability and wellness,” says Darke-Miller. “People want to know, ‘If I'm going to work in this building, what are the materials and products that are in here? What are you doing to help the globe? What are you doing to make sure that our environment is going to be healthy for a long time?’”
One factor on many people’s minds these days is carbon footprints. Darke-Miller explains, “When they’re specifying restroom fixtures, designers and architects are looking for those Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) that tell you what is in the product and how it was made. They want to know what materials are in the products they’ll be coming into contact with, and how you’re offsetting carbon, as well as what you as a company are doing to make the world a better place. Today it’s much more than just using a recycled product—you need to walk the talk and show you are making a difference in the world.”
Sloan’s carbon offset program—which purchases reforestation credits that plant 2.5 trees for every flushometer produced—is a huge benefit for those prioritizing an eco-friendly stance. “It's such an easy thing for architects and designers to be able to say, ’I'm specifying this water closet or flushometer that I love, and I can also plant some trees without having to pay any more.’”
Are We Making Spaces as Hygienic as Possible?
It’s no surprise that hygiene has become a top priority during a worldwide pandemic. Everyone involved in designing or maintaining a commercial restroom understands that when people touch fewer surfaces, they are less likely to transmit disease, and Sloan has met the demand for more hygienic commercial restroom products with the industry’s largest selection of touch-free faucets, soap dispensers, hand dryers, and flushometers. In fact, Sloan invented sensor flushometers and faucets nearly 50 years ago.
Darke-Miller points out another hygiene-related trend gaining traction among facility owners and managers: hand hygiene beyond the restroom.
“If I’m at a stadium for a game,” says Darke-Miller, “why can't I wash my hands at a sink station by the concession stand instead of waiting in a huge line to go in and use the restroom? Or how about in front of an elevator in an office building?”
Since its introduction in 2020, hundreds of facilities have purchased Sloan’s Mobile Handwashing Station for cafeterias, food courts, offices, schools and universities, convention centers, retail environments, and other locations where people like to wash their hands without going into the restroom.
Now, many architects, designers, and building owners are considering installing permanent handwashing stations in restaurants, hotel lobbies, and other locations where people appreciate the opportunity for a quick clean-up.
Darke-Miller says, “Think about all the touch points that you have in any given building. Architects are making as many of them as they can touch-free, because people take hand hygiene so seriously.”
These new approaches to hand hygiene—along with a commitment to sustainability and efforts to make workers more comfortable—are the three trends architects and designers must keep in mind for 2022. At Sloan, we’re here to help you make these ideas the foundation of your next standout commercial restroom project.
Want ideas for making your next 2022 project more stylish, more hygienic, and more sustainable? Contact Sloan!
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