The Importance of Washrooms in Building Design
As an architect or designer, your approach to washroom design and placement within buildings should be two-fold. First of all, serious consideration must be given to washroom specification to ensure it aligns with the latest date design standards and requirements. Designers should also ensure the design of the washroom environment is comfortable and welcoming for its users whilst enhancing the overall design principles of the building.
A washroom is a public facility and as such, it needs to be safe, hygienic and suitable for those who’ll be using it. Assessing who will be using a washroom is key to determining its size and the number of fixtures and fittings to be included. The exact ratio of users to facilities is slightly different depending on mixed or single sex use. In line with the UK Equality Act, provision for disabled people must also be incorporated in the design.
Washroom Design Standards
Any washroom should always meet current design standards. However, it’s not simply a case of designing to a set of dimensions. From washbasins to rails, the positioning of fixtures and fittings is of paramount importance. During the design stage of any building, emphasis should always be put on the user’s perspective. Whatever the building’s purpose, the washroom should always be as well thought out as any other area.
Both able-bodied and disabled people have difficulties manoeuvring within toilet blocks and this can often be down to ill thought out design. The positioning and relationship between objects within washrooms can mean that even toilets designed to current standards don’t offer suitable functionality. When designing washrooms as part of a build, it’s important to consider the building’s prospective users. There is no average standard that is suitable for everyone. While it’s important to introduce a minimum standard, it’s also essential to meet the needs of specific user groups. From different toilet types for men and women to alternatives to meet the needs of small children, the elderly or those with disabilities, washroom design should be much more than an afterthought.
In some settings, washroom design may traditionally have been overlooked. In schools, for example, close attention has often been paid to the design of classrooms but not to the washrooms. Yet, the quality of school washrooms has an undeniable impact on pupils’ health, education and happiness. Appealing, colourful designs and images are more likely to increase the well-being of the washroom’s young users. Encouraging children to design wall or cubicle door murals can inspire a sense of ownership and respect, thereby, reducing the likelihood of misuse and enlightening what can often be intimidating areas.
A well-thought-out washroom can provide a pleasant experience, encouraging users to linger longer. In office environments, first-rate facilities have proven to have a positive effect on staff engagement. Employees feel more valued when facilities and the working environment are comfortable, clean and stylish. Staff satisfaction is enhanced, which leads to improved productivity. Natural ventilation, windows or daylighting have traditionally been overlooked during the washroom design process. However, natural ventilation can reduce odours far more than the use of artificial air fresheners. Similarly, clever use of colour can create the illusion of a brighter interior for spaces with limited natural light. Strategically placed wall mirrors or large mirror units can help to make a small space seem larger and lighter. Creating a pleasant environment will make users feel more comfortable and content.
A design feature
Irrespective of building type, the washroom is fast becoming much more of a design feature. It’s an area that everyone has to use and as such, it should form an integral aspect of building design. Washrooms can unite different areas of a building during the design process. Many businesses, for example, may choose to introduce corporate colours or logos in their washrooms. This creates a unique feature in the washroom and a coherent, professional feel for the facility. Stand-out features, such as individual hand basins in cubicles bring the wow-factor to washrooms while creating a comfortable environment for users.
Today, washrooms are revered as facilitators for sociability. Users should experience a welcoming environment with smart facilities and plenty of space to move within the area. In the retail and commercial sectors, such as in shopping centres and airports, curved wall entrances are becoming increasingly popular. These washrooms experience a consistently high flow of traffic and a curved wall entrance helps to provide privacy from the busy hubbub of the surroundings. A curved wall creates a sense of space, allowing room for waiting friends and family members to mingle. It also reduces queuing which creates a more relaxed environment and enhances the retail experience for the thousands of users who frequent the facilities.
While the washroom may not always be at the cutting edge of building construction, designers and architects should still strive to create a comfortable and welcoming environment that has a positive impact on those who use it.
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