Historically, commercial facilities have focused their design and construction efforts on visible common areas, such as the company lobby, conference rooms, kitchen areas, and office spaces. The way an organization chooses to design these spaces deliberately elicits emotional responses in visitors and employees and makes a statement about the organization.
More recently, there has been a greater focus put on updating commercial restroom spaces, to be consistent with the rest of the facility. This may include adding quality hardware, upgrading fixtures, and replacing lighting. Newer designs have also focused on sustainability such as reducing paper waste and improving water efficiency.
But nothing is driving restroom updates like the COVID-19 pandemic. “Where hygienics were previously important in restrooms, today it’s paramount,” says Bill Macdonald, Director of Projects at Adform Interiors. “People want a restroom that they feel safe and comfortable using.”
Earlier this year, a survey conducted by United Minds in cooperation with CINT, found that 80% of the more than 1,000 people surveyed said they expect public restrooms to provide a safe, hygienic environment to a higher extent now than before COVID-19.
So, upgrading the restroom is essential. But, what can companies do? Here are five ways companies are meeting people’s needs for safety:
From faucets and auto-flush toilets, to soap and paper towel dispensers, avoiding contact will minimize the spreading of germs and make patrons feel safe. Out of fear that hand dryers circulate germs and bacteria, many companies are returning to single-use or contactless paper towel dispensers.
Restroom layouts are being designed so they provide more space for patrons. This may include installing sink basins that are smaller in size and distanced farther apart from one another. Similarly, spacing urinals farther apart in the men’s restroom is another common approach.
“Companies are looking at restrooms more holistically now, in an effort to streamline a person’s visit to the restroom and reduce congestion,” says Amanda King, Marketing & Showroom Manager at The Splash Lab. For example, locating a faucet, soap dispenser, and hand dryer next to one another reduces the number of steps required to wash hands. “Not having to share soap dispensers or walk from the sink to a towel dispenser reduces the time people spend in the restroom, which reduces traffic,” says King. Separate entry and exit doors, some of which are automatic, are starting to be used to improve traffic flow.
A constant air change is an obvious priority in restrooms. Knowing that the Coronavirus can be transmitted through air, companies are taking additional steps to make restrooms safer. This may involve running the HVAC system fans longer, installing more air vents in restrooms, opening the outside-air intake, using the highest-rated filters, or upgrading HVAC units. As another layer of protection, air purifiers can also help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses. Portable and commercial units are being installed more widely.
There’s also a trend towards using larger stall partitions and adding partitions or walls between sinks to give people more privacy and separation from one another. All-in-one stations, popular in Europe, have a new purpose today in the US. These fully-enclosed “cabins” add washing and hand drying functionality to traditional stalls. Not only do these provide a safe environment, they also provide a brief break from work. Studies in the UK have shown that a luxurious experience in the “loo” can actually enhance creativity!