Communicating with architects and designers about projects can avoid a lot of headaches down the road.“Okay, so who uses their feet to flush the toilet?” Cue a huge laugh, and then about 90 percent of the room’s hands were raised. This was one of the questions I asked at a recent design team charrette with our architects and interior designers. The initial thought of any question relating to the personal realm of the bathroom can be quite uncomfortable, but once you begin to get into the dynamics of this room in our buildings, you can really understand what these spaces can mean for our clients.
The idea of the charrette was to sit down in a round table session, with some of our architects and interior designers, to pick their brain about the dynamics on good bathroom design. Jill Imig, senior mechanical engineer at HGA, and I sat down with the designers to discuss what non-plumbing engineers are thinking about and the different aspects as to why and how our bathrooms obtain the design that they do. The goal of the meeting and research was to broaden our bathroom design perspective.
From a societal perspective, Lyssa Olker, senior architect explained some of the current trends she’s seeing in the corporate world that weren’t even on our minds five or ten years ago:“The hot topics for HR are unisex bathrooms or wellness rooms (mothers’ rooms) and the specific plumbing needs associated with those rooms. It’s an important thing for offices; if you’re trying to recruit someone they’re going to go to the company that has the facilities for them.” The sociology behind the bathroom design was something that we didn’t expect to be so prevalent in the programmatic design of our projects.
The controversial issue playing out in our political spectrum is the request to allow transgendered people to access the restroom opposite of what is written on their birth certificate. The Supreme Court has even been brought into the picture to rule on this decision. That really wasn’t a road we wanted to travel down, but it definitely got the group thinking about the different dynamics in the public restrooms. A trend that the group has been seeing more and more of are communal bathrooms with “private” stalls. This is essentially several mini bathrooms inside of the restroom and a communal bank of lavatories. There are even some designs that are locating the lavatories outside of the room entirely. Someone suggested that this idea would force more people to wash their hands.