Starting with some fascinating research findings from Ideal Standard, we look at its Concept Space one-stop shop offering before looking at some of the best innovations in specific areas
Architectural staff are apt to think they’ve drawn the short straw when they are ‘entrusted’ with toilet packages, but unless this becomes a long term role in the office to the exclusion of all others they’d do well to be more philosophical. Among others, Le Corbusier regarded and treated bathrooms as inherently functional, in the most positive sense of the word. Also, excepting cases where residential bathrooms have been overdesigned and over-specified for marketing purposes, compact and rational planning of these areas to free up prime living, work and amenity space is sometimes regarded as a discipline in its own right. ‘Toilets are tough’, an architect colleague once exclaimed. They are also a happy hunting ground for lovers of fittings and innovative gismos, such as the legendary fart snatcher WC enhancement. Architects with an appetite for advanced technology such as Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, are suckers for meticulous washroom design, although the discerning will be mindful to separate out what is genuinely useful from gimmickry. This is also architecture at its most tactile and in contrast to other product focuses, the world of kitchens and bathrooms can be as concerned with keeping water in as with keeping it out.
Le Corbusier regarded and treated bathrooms as inherently functional, in the most positive sense of the word
In February, bathroom specialist Ideal Standard conducted a two-week study on 19 people from Britain, France, Italy and Germany, using prototype motion mapping technology to monitor behaviour. Households varied from single occupancy to multi-generational homes. Depth sensors were adapted to provide accurate 3D tracking of the human body and findings were supplemented by quantitative data gathered from 4,065 people.
Initial analysis of this research revealed some interesting phenomena, for example parents who seek refuge from their families through long baths and showers, bathrooms that double up as laundries and dressing rooms, and flatmates forced to do their ablutions together. ‘We started with a hypothesis that in many homes the bathroom is not used as well as it could be,’ says Ideal Standard International chief marketing officer Kerris Bright. ‘The findings seem to confirm what we suspected.’
These findings were published in social anthropologist Dr John Curran’s paper Bathroom Behaviours; how to optimise bathroom space for modern households.
|Findings of Ideal Standard’s Spy-in-the Bathroom study|
|A comparison of different cross-nationality sample groups*|
|What is the average person’s morning bathroom routine (shower,toilet, basin)?||25m 59s|
|Is an average woman’s standard bathroom routine longer than an average man’s?||Yes||1m 13s longer|
|What proportion of people choose a bath rather than a shower as part of their daily routine?||36%||Same for men and women|
|Do under 30s spend more or less time in the WC than over 55s?||More||1m 39s longer||Under 30s much more likely to check facebook than read a book|
|Most 18-30s want a bathroom space they can share, but by the time they hit their 50s the bathroom is a purely private space. True of false?||True||Showers for two get less appealing when respondents hit their 30s|
|Do respondents in their 50s see the bathroom as a purely private space?||Yes|
|What proportion of people crave a new bathroom?||40%|
|Is the preference of people who long for a new bathroom for a bigger |
space or one that better meets their needs?
|One that better meets their needs|
|Adults in family homes spend more time than average in the bathroom and take longer baths. True or false?||True||Parents took longer to clean, preen and prepare themselves than others in the study||This parental retreat phenomenon is especially pronounced when children in the household are under 5|
|Which group is least satisfied with its current bathroom setup?||Parents||Parents struggle with multiple, sometimes conflicting, uses and space demands||Parents are most likely to complain about clutter and lack of storage space|
|Which group is most satisfied with its current bathroom setup?||Older people living alone or as a couple||This group is able to create the largest storage space in the bathroom|
|Are people living in all-adult homes, e.g. students sharing flats or families where children have returned from university, more likely to view bathrooms as purely functional spaces?||Yes||No one holds dominion, so there is often pressure to do what you need to do and get out||This group tends to shun long baths and relies on showers. Bathrooms are more likely to double up as laundries|
|Which group is most able to keep its bathroom spaces tidy and ordered?||Couples||Possibly due to incentive to keep bathroom space tidy for the other person while not having the disruptions of family life|
|Findings of Ideal Standard’s Spy-in-the Bathroom study:|
|How the British, French, Italians and Germans compare*|
|What is the quickest average morning bathroom routine by nationality?||19m 42s||British||Nearly 8 minutes less than Germans|
|What is the slowest bathroom routine by nationality?||27m 35s||Germans||The French take 27m 11s and Italians 27m 33s|
|In which nation do households use their baths the least?||Britain||33% of those with a seperate bath use it just twice a week|
|By nationality who are the most regular bath users?||French||50% of those with a seperate bath use it at least once a day||Corresponding proportion for Britain is 31%, where 27% with a seperate bath use it once a month|
|Do most French households have a toilet in the main bathroom?||Yes||35% have no toilet in the main bathroom|
|Most Italian households have no bidet. True or false?||False||95% have a bidet||4% of British households have a bidet|
|Which nationality is least happy with its current bathrooms?||Germans||26% say they are happy|
|Which nationality tends to be happiest with its current bathrooms?||British||42% say they are happy||May reflect fact that British less prone to linger in bathrooms|
|French and British households seldom use their bidets. True or false?||True|
|Which nationality spends the shortest average time in the WC?||British||4m 33s|
|Which nationality spends the longest average time in the WC?||Italians||7m 31s||The French spend 4m 56s and the Germans 6m 41s|
|Which nationality spends the shortest time in the bath?||British||20m 42s|
|Which nationalisty spends the longest time in the bath?||German||25m 58s|
|Which nationalisty spends the shortest time in the shower?||British||10m 41s||Italians take the longest at 13m 38s|
|Which nationality has the largest proportion of bath/shower combies?||British||59%. Largely due to smaller bathrooms in Britain than on the continent|
|Which nationality is least likely to have a seperate bath?||British||30%||Italy and Germany are slightly above average with 42%|
|Which nationality is least likely to have a seperate shower?||British||31%||61% of Italians have a seperate shower|
* Note: AJ Specification has derived these questions from the findings of the study and they are not quotations from its quantitative analysis documentation
‘The bathroom is a unique space in the home because it has to meet an array of needs,’ says Curran. ‘Meeting all the needs of household members is increasingly challenging in light of rapid demographic change which is seeing a rise in single person, all-adult and multi-generational households and households with older people.’
For each of the bathrooms in the motion mapping study Ideal Standard has set about creating a ‘profile bathroom’, developed by designer Robin Levien, using insights gathered. Each is a useful starting point when designing bathrooms for different needs. Levien worked with Ideal Standard’s core Connect range, Softmood, Strada and an extended range of water and energy efficient showers and fittings.
A composite analysis of all the homes in this motion mapping study suggests that baths are underused and that people increasingly rely on showers for daily bathing, suggesting that we could be approaching a time when, paradoxically, baths are no longer essential in main family bathrooms.
In keeping with the empirical user-focused foundation for this research, Ideal Standard has launched Concept Space, a range of ceramics, bath and storage products intended to transform spaces, however small or awkward, into beautiful bathrooms. Concept Space, which extends and enhances Robin Levien’s Concept range, acknowledges that bathrooms need to meet varied and diurnal needs in contemporary households. The collection combines ceramics, including short projection basins and compact WCs, and baths designed for small or awkward spaces.
The range aims to make best use of available space, behind or above WCs, below basins and elsewhere, using wall-hung and modular units available in six finishes, with minimal projections.
Wall-hung basin units combine soft-close external deep drawers and shallow drawers to maximise storage space. Modular storage boxes in three sizes fill the upper drawer, but can be reconfigured. Additional storage is available on the side of guest basin units, which have L-shaped doors and can be allhung or free-standing. A storage box on the inside of the door allows storage around the waste fitting. Extra storage space is provided by offsetting the WC within its storage unit. There is also a selection of freestyle storage units, including fill-in shelf units, top boxes and short-projection tall units.
Concept Space Cube basins can be wall mounted, with semi pedestals, full pedestals or furniture. They have a short 380mm projection, much less than the 480mm projection of standard Concept Cube vanity basins. Suitable for smaller spaces, 450mm guest basins are used with wall hung or free-standing guest basin units, available as right or left handed. Compact WCs and bidets are available as close coupled, back-to-wall and wall-hung suites, reducing projection by up to 75mm. Corner WCs are designed to fit where wall space is tight, with insufficient legroom for standard units. Square shower baths are available, left or right handed, with 1,500 or 1,700mm lengths, as well as 550mm Spacemaker baths, which narrow to 550mm. Flexible brassware positioning allows baths to have conventional mixers or be adapted for doubleended bathing or with conventional mixers.
Porcelanosa’s MOOD bathroom range, from Noken, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Luis Vidal + Architects, is modular, versatile and functional. It is available in a refreshing range of colours, which is both a Rogers trademark and a tonic to those who are weary of subdued washroom design. It’s a radical departure from conventional approaches and uses Krion, a new material which is very hard, compact, pore-free and homogeneous throughout its thickness.
The brassware, designed by Luis Vidal + Architects, enables the flow and temperature of water to be electronically customised to each use and user, optimising energy conservation. A mechanical version with the same appearance, aimed at more conventional users, is also available. Unconventionally, ceramic basins support countertops and all accessories, accelerating and simplifying installation. The concept of MOOD sanitaryware involves a dialogue between this new wondermaterial and traditional ceramics, a unifying geometrical language of circles and tangents that creates a smooth transition between vertical and horizontal planes and scope for users to adapt it to their spaces and personal needs. It’s available in snow white, yellow, navy blue - and strawberry.
Leaving aside the one-stop shop approach, a pick-and-mix strategy is able to take advantage of the boldest innovations in each type of washroom component. Starting with sink fittings, Dyson has launched the Airblade Tap hand dryer, which not only washes your hands but also dries them.
Infrared sensors pinpoint hand positions and release water from the tap stem. When drying is requested, integrated circuitry activates Dyson’s latest digital motor, creating two high velocity sheets of air on the tap’s branches. Using Airblade technology, sheets of 430mph unheated filtered air scrape your hands dry in 12 seconds. The hand dryer is powered by Dyson’s V4 DC digital motor, power-dense and brushless, with a bonded magnet encased in a carbon fibre sleeve - one of the world’s smallest fully integrated 1,600W motors. Using digital pulse technology, it accelerates from 0 to 90,000rpm in less than 0.7 seconds. The dryer passes washroom air through an HEPA filter to remove 99.9 per cent of bacteria before it reaches your hands.
The essential components, including the motor, are housed in a discreet package under the sink, with springs to reduce vibration, acoustic foams to absorb noise and expansion chambers to improve sound quality. Six Dyson-designed Helmholtz silencers absorb tonal frequencies and reduce the motor tone. The high pitch noise of the impeller is virtually inaudible.
Independent infrared sensors allow users as much water and air as they want. An aerator mixes the water and dispenses it across hands to reduce the volume used; its flow rate is controlled by motion detection. The Dyson Airblade Tap hand dryer is made from an anti-corrosion 304 stainless steel, used in boat construction. Specialised laser-welding technology, at temperatures up to 1,400°C, is used to weld tough steel to accuracies of 0.08mm, so there are almost no joint lines and air, water and electrics are contained in a smooth package.
Mixer and shower specialist Hansgrohe is extending its range of showerpipes with five new models. The new Croma 220 showerpipes use Hansgrohe AirPower technology, incorporated into overhead showers. This infuses the water with air inside the 220mm diameter showerhead, providing a voluminous, aerated shower that bathes the skin and envelopes it like a warm cloak. Supplied as fully pre-installed units, these slender systems combine overhead and hand units with various operating controls for use in the shower and above the bath. The 400mm protruding shower arm is positioned at an angle on all Croma 220 showerpipes and the overhead shower can also be swung into the desired direction at the ball joint, offering users maximum freedom of movement. The system can be installed at the front of the bath and along the side. Off -centre connections are also possible, as the overhead shower can be swivelled to the desired shower area. For this purpose, the smooth-turning pivot joint is fitted over the upper wall mounting, so no force is exerted on the mounting when swivelling.
For a very different sculptural quality, Gersi’s Goccia collection available from C.P. Hart takes its name from an Italian word meaning ‘drop’. It includes a range of brass and sanitary ware with curvaceous profiles intended to replicate water. Goccia showerheads, basins and taps are available in chrome, white and black.
Kitchen and bathroom fittings manufacturer Dornbracht’s Horizontal Shower, winner of last year’s Society of British Interior Design Best Product award, enables the therapeutic benefits of Ambiance Tuning Technique technology to be enjoyed lying down for the first time. It combines six WaterBars recessed in a bulkhead and various flow types can be combined, using preprogrammed choreographies of water temperature and intensity to create balanced, invigorating or relaxing water experiences. Dornbracht also manufactures the Gentle range of accessories, which includes elegant polished chrome soap dishes, also available in matt plastic with a choice of four colours.
Propelair is an air-operated WC, which uses only 1.5 litres of water per flush compared to the usual nine, saving water and money, as well as improving hygiene. This bears thinking about when you consider that toilet flushing can account for 90 per cent of water use in commercial buildings. Along with an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, it offers a 95 per cent reduction in aerosol contamination and removes 99.9 per cent of contaminants. Propelair claims it’s the cleanest WC available. It uses patented displaced air POWA technology to produce a powerful, high-performance flush while reducing average water usages by 84 per cent. Unlike conventional toilets, it doesn’t need gravity drains and sloping waste pipes, so it can be fitted practically anywhere.
If you’re blessed with work involving a listed building and are resigned or resolved to matching and rhyming with historical styles - which can be complicated and expensive - do yourself, the contractor and the client a favour by specifying a cast iron soil system which is at least easy to fit. Rainclear Systems should sort you out. Its Simplefit range uses EPDM pushfit rubber joints that avoid typical specialist and hazardous hot work installation methods. Cast iron is nothing if not strong and durable and is also a winner in the recycling stakes. An added benefit is water noise insulation. Those builders of yore knew a thing or two.
As I’m fond of saying, I’m a sucker for colour, perhaps in spite of my architectural background, so what better place to look for inspiration than in cubicle systems.
Washroom specialist Venesta’s Unity cubicles have historically been aimed at specifiers with a generous budget. No longer. Unity is now Britain’s most economical flush fronted cubicle, says Venesta. It features in the V1 low-cost cubicle range and is available in MFC, HPL, SGL and Venesta’s standard range of ColourCoat finishes.
Venesta has also used its best design brains to develop Dimension, marketed as the first pilaster-free cubicle system, relying on a pivot detail for top and bottom door fixings. It features in Venesta’s V3 premium range and is available in real wood veneer, glass and ColourCoat, a spray painted finish, which Venesta assures us is available ‘in absolutely any RAL colour’. Parfait.