From Pandemic to Priority: Restroom Trends to Know

Studies have shown that people believe that an unpleasant public restroom shows poor management and causes them to lower their opinion on the facility.

By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: How to Improve the Restroom Experience Pt. 2: This Page

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased need for touchless fixtures. Germ aversion has largely driven the demand with 82 percent of American adults believing it’s important for public restrooms to be equipped with touchless fixtures, according to a survey done by Bradley. The top touchless restroom features considered most important are faucets, flushers, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and restroom entrance doors. 

“Touchless dispensing has been a growing trend over the last 20 years,” says Julie Howard, vice president and general manager of towel and tissue category, GP PRO. “Yes, the pandemic certainly accelerated that growth — to the point where we saw demand of 20-25 percent higher than pre-COVID, but it was a priority category for us long before that. And while hygiene has been a maintainer priority over the last several years, we recognize that they have competing priorities that also include sustainability, cost savings, and labor productivity.” 

Access to touchless fixtures is one of the most requested improvements in restrooms along with making them cleaner and well-stocked. According to research by GP PRO, clean restrooms are a key factor in the user restroom experience. It also shows that it is a factor in the user’s overall facility experience. 

Improved touch-free technology is helping to ensure that restrooms remain clean for the next user.  

“From a product standpoint, the mechanicals used in sensored technology have been significantly improved in just the past few years,” says Haas. “While some older touchless models include sensors that deliver spotty soap and water activations, today’s designs incorporate advanced sensing technology ensuring continuous and reliable washing, and less soap splotches leftover in and around the basin.” 

Not only are touchless fixtures beneficial from a wellness perspective, but they are also more accessible as well. Recently, there have been more calls to make spaces more accommodating for people with disabilities, there has been an ongoing trend of restrooms being designed well above the required ADA compliance code, says Hunt. 

To go along with this, gender neutral restrooms have become increasingly more popular, however, adequate floor space is often needed to accommodate all-gender facilities. Some design options for inclusive restrooms include individual rooms with locking doors or a larger communal space with separate stalls.  

“User privacy is essential for bathrooms designed for use by all genders,” says Haas. “The IAPMO/ANSI/CAN Z124.10 standard specifies the level of privacy and security for the users of water closets and urinals. This standard addresses the need for partitions to minimize the open space between stalls, use of occupancy indicators on stalls and doors that lock to support privacy.” 

There are only minimal costs associated with converting unisex restrooms to gender neutral spaces. Adding drains in each stall, upgrading smoke/fire detectors and installing floor to ceiling doors and partitions are among the simplest and cost-effective changes. However, it will cost more to convert male restrooms into gender neutral restrooms as it’s often cheaper to add urinals rather than remove them.   

Both the International Plumbing Code and Uniform Plumbing Code have already accepted the concept of gender-neutral restrooms. While building designers and code councils are working toward more inclusive, private, accessible and ADA compliant restroom spaces, the process has been slow going and many local building codes have yet to catch up to these ongoing changes. 

A personal touch 

To make public restrooms more appealing to the masses, designers and architects are now adding elements that are more likely to be seen at home. Biophilic design, for example, allows occupants to feel more grounded and connected to nature. Natural light, greenery and plants, wood and natural finishes are now being found in restrooms. 

“When architects design and space and use these products that are nicer looking it just enhances the overall feel of a restroom,” says Scelsi. “Nobody wants to go into a restroom and have dirty faucets or outdated fixtures, and then have to touch everything because nothing is automatic.” 

Studies have shown that people believe that an unpleasant public restroom shows poor management and causes them to lower their opinion on the facility. Conversely, 60 percent of people make it a point to stop at a business and will spend more money at their establishment if they know it has clean and maintained restrooms, according to a study done by Bradley. 

“Today’s restroom designs prioritize strategies that make end users feel comfortable, protected and secure while using these facilities,” Haas says. “Societal factors like COVID-19, hygiene concerns, gender neutrality and upgraded aesthetics have amplified the need for privacy, prompting more thoughtful, personalized and discreet restroom designs.” 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor of the facilities market.  

Continue Reading: Restrooms

How to Improve the Restroom Experience

From Pandemic to Priority: Restroom Trends to Know

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  posted on 9/11/2023   Article Use Policy

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