Considerations and advice
Designing a commercial washroom is about more than just aesthetics. Whilst complementing interior architecture washrooms must also be functional, comply with relevant regulations and encourage the respect of users.
Smart, well-designed washrooms can help maximise a building’s sales/rental potential. The use of premium materials, such as real wood veneers and natural stone, can contribute to a high quality feel, while choosing full-height, flush-fronted cubicle doors offers maximum privacy and creates a prestigious, unbroken look. Back-painted glass for shelving and splashbacks is another popular option, providing a water-resistant solution with high design impact. To help reduce lifetime costs, choose non-corrosive metal fittings and easy-care laminate panels which are hygienic solutions with superior durability.
In addition to aesthetic and practical considerations, washroom design is governed by an array of legislation and standards.
Today’s office developer recognise that lobbies, lifts, loos and views can make a building more attractive and provide greater intrinsic value. While not necessarily quantifiable – it can make the difference to the rents paid and securing an occupier.
This is driven by the changing profile of occupiers and their staff. Today’s Millennial Generation has entirely different expectations of the work environment. They expect an office experience more akin to a hotel or high-end residential experience. This has led to the concept of Business Hotels. Where people check-in, use concierge facilities and benefit from front of house meet and greet. They book desks now by the hour/day/week and services are tailored to meet people’s needs. All aimed at making people to feel valued the moment they walk into the office.
This means that lobbies, lifts, loos and views have been rethought. No longer just an entrance, lobbies have cafes, breakout spaces and areas to meet. Lifts are clever, they know where you are going – and often are replaced by internal stairs. External spaces and terraces now bring the outside in. Washrooms are designed to satisfy the needs of those who cycle or run to work.
At Maxwood, we understand the value – both to the developer and the end user – of a beautifully designed and engineered washroom.
Part G of the Building Regulations contains guidelines on the number and type of facilities required in a building to meet the needs of all user groups. Generally speaking, separate toilets are required in workplaces where there are both male and female employees.
However, if the total number of employees based at a particular location is 10 or less, and there are two or fewer employees of one gender, then unisex washrooms may be provided. These can be what are known as ‘superloos’, which are single units complete with toilet and washbasin, or larger washrooms designed to be used by men and women, with lockable toilet cubicles and shared hand-washing facilities.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
Commercial washrooms must be designed to meet the strict criteria of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) to ensure facilities can be accessed with ease by someone with a disability, whether that’s a wheelchair user or a person with impaired vision, for example. One of the primary requirements under the DDA is the provision of at least one wheelchair accessible cubicle in any non-residential building. In addition, where there are four or more cubicles provided in a washroom, one of these must be of an enlarged size to dimensions set down in DDA Document M guidelines. Cubicles for disabled users should include grab rails, outward opening doors with clear access to the WC itself, a raised toilet pan, and be fitted with indicator bolts and doors which can be opened with a closed fist.
DDA regulations also need to be considered in terms of the LRV (light reflectance value) of surfaces. This ensures sufficient visual contrast between different areas of the washroom, such as door frames to walls and sanitary fittings to walls, to enable visually impaired people to distinguish between these areas by virtue of the difference in light reflecting from the surface. It should also be noted that wall finishes and floor coverings should contrast with each other in terms of both colour and texture to help the visually impaired navigate the washroom safely.
Workplace washroom standards
In addition to Building Regulations, designers of workplace washrooms are advised to consult recommendations in the Government’s Workplace (Heath, Safety and Welfare) Regulations. These relate to issues such as cleanliness, hygiene, ensuring user privacy with the provision of lockable doors, adequate lighting and ventilation. The choice of materials can assist in achieving some of these standards. For example, high pressure laminates offer a hygienic, easy to clean option for cubicle doors and other surfaces, while SGL (solid grade laminate) is extremely resilient to knocks and bumps, and being impervious to water means it is easily washed down. In addition, manufacturing walls and vanity troughs from a single piece of solid surface material creates an attractive, seamless appearance and also reduces the number of joints for easier cleaning and less unhygienic crevices. Specifying non-touch fittings, from automatic hand dryers to electronic sensor taps and toilet flushing systems, is also worth considering to ensure a hygienic washroom environment.