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Aesthetically Pleasing: A Rising Restroom Trend
Water conservation and hygiene remain the most important reasons why managers plan plumbing retrofits. But plumbing manufacturers are beginning to see increasing interest in specifying products that address those issues, and are appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.
"In the last seven-eight years, aesthetics have become increasingly important in projects, and certainly in commercial facilities," says John Fitzgerald of Chicago Faucets. "We're exposed to more things every day that are more cosmetic and aesthetically pleasing. To me, it's just a matter of time before that's going to start on the consumer end and trickle into the business-to-business side of it.
"Be it a facility manager or building owner, they are demanding more. They want more for the same amount. In 50 years, the faucet will operate the same way it does now, so we have to find different ways to differentiate the product. Aesthetics isn't the answer, but if you can have a great quality product and incorporate some aesthetics with it, I think that's going to meet the discriminating needs of that building and manager."
During the specification stage, it is important that managers find properly sized — and aesthetically pleasing — products to replace old fixtures.
"Unless managers are looking to do a lot of work cleaning up where the fixture was, if it's a urinal on the wall, or a toilet on the floor, or a faucet on the sink deck, look at what's the footprint of the fixture that you're putting in," Fitszimmons says. "A lot of times a guy says, 'That looks like the same size urinal and toilet,' and then there's a very unsightly ring where the new fixture is, slightly smaller than the existing one. That can be a true headache to clean that surface and prepare it for the new fixture. Some thought needs to go into it to make sure you have the right size footprint."
The introduction of more visually appealing plumbing products in retrofits is still evolving, Gipson says.
"Aesthetics is playing more of a part in the commercial restroom than it ever has," he says. "Architects and designers are having a greater voice in the decisions that are being made, and that's resulting in a wider choice of products and better looking products. There will continue to be improvements in that direction."