Virtually no aspect of our lives has been untouched by Covid-19, and commercial bathrooms are no different. From toilet partitions, tap fittings, hand driers, vanities, seating and the layout itself, many public venues are now rethinking their bathroom facilities. In fact, the pandemic has awakened our awareness of infection control within building and facility design across the board.
Respiratory infections are transmitted via droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. These droplets can be airborne but they can also be found on contaminated shared surfaces such as door handles, taps, buttons and vanities. To see how washrooms represent a risk you only have to count how many surfaces you touch before you leave a public restroom facility. A conservative estimate would be at least six surfaces (the entry door, the toilet cubicle door, the soap dispenser, the water faucet, the vanity and the hand dryer) touched more than once. Then there is the risk associated with overcrowding and poor ventilation.
Ideally, a guest is able to enter and leave a commercial bathroom without needing to touch a door, so that they don’t contaminate their hands again after washing. The bathroom should be large and airy, with enough cubicles to reduce the need for queueing, and good spacing between cubicles, vanities, hand dryers and any other service points. However, on these points alone it’s clear that many commercial bathrooms need renovation to give adequate reassurance to guests.
There are several key design tips that support infection control in bathrooms, and this is by no means an exhaustive list:
1. Go contactless
Contactless is not just restricted to card payments, it also refers to water faucets. Contactless vanity basins allow guests to wash their hands without touching any surfaces through the use of motion sensors. There is also the option of contactless soap dispensers and contactless hand dryers, too, which further limit surface exposure. Finally, a contactless hand sanitiser dispenser outside a commercial bathroom can add an extra layer of protection or assist in the scenario where some amount of surface touching is unavoidable.
2. Bring fresh air in
The WHO recommends increased ventilation using outside air to combat the transmission of respiratory infections. This may be as simple as installing lattice style windows to bring in ample fresh air, or involve the installation of a HVAC system that allows for maximal airflow 2 hours before and after spaces are occupied.
3. Install easy-clean antibacterial finishes and fittings
Infection control goes hand in hand with hygiene and cleaning practices. The easiest thing you can do as a venue holder is invest in easy to clean antibacterial finishes and fittings to make your bathroom as sanitary as possible. Consider the infection control characteristics of all the materials in your bathroom.
4. Think like a crowd and modify the layout accordingly
Crowding can let down an otherwise sanitary and well-working bathroom. Support guests to social distance by investing in a crowd-proof design that intuitively guides guests through the space. Design features like a separate entry and exit, S shaped doors and ample space between cubicles, seats, vanity basins and other service points should be instituted at the design phase.
5. Extend infection control to accessible and ambulant toilet facilities
Particular care needs to be given to the needs of guests using accessible and ambulant toilets. In these bathrooms there are significantly more surfaces that have touch requirements, such as grab bars and baby change tables. You can mitigate the risks by offering ample space, using antimicrobial coatings on all surfaces, installing contactless features and adding hand sanitiser points. Finally, you can safeguard all aspects of your toilet facilities by introducing regular cleaning throughout its operating hours.
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