PUBLIC BATHROOM DESIGN
By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© August 2018, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is only the opinion of the author and is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, prescription, treatment or cure of any disease or health condition.
An important topic, though it may not seem so, is the design of public toilet facilities. This is most important for women’s safety, although it is helpful for men, as well.
Bathroom facilities should be:
- Secure, with a powerful lock on the door.
- Visible, meaning the person inside should be able to look outward and see if anyone is waiting or standing in front of the door who could come in when the door opens.
- Comfortable. Some bathroom designs are not that comfortable for various reasons.
- Private, meaning that one can undress and remain and then dress with privacy.
With the above principles in mind, the best public bathrooms are those which have:
- Small, one-person rooms as the bathroom, not a large, multi-person room.
- A strong metal door and a secure locking system on that door.
- An indicator. Ideally, the door would show, in a clear way, whether the room is “vacant” or “occupied”. This keeps people who are waiting from knocking on the door or trying to open the door, both of which are upsetting to anyone inside.
- The door or wall nearby should have a one-way peep hole or observation hole at eye level so the person inside, before opening the door, can check to see if anyone is standing right outside the door or in the nearby area who might be able to come inside.
- An extra feature would be an emergency call button. This would be used only in an emergency and would connect to the security personnel of the office, business or other establishment to request help. The help could be for illness or if a person is being pursued and does not want to leave the bathroom.
- The same bathroom for men and women is fine (unisex). This would also solve the newer problem of which bathroom a transgender person should use.
- Include a urinal for men. This would improve overall cleanliness. There could also be a sign suggesting that everyone sit down at all times when using the toilet.
- Waiting area. Ideally, have a waiting area near, but not right in front of the bathroom doors. This is for safety and privacy.
Larger public places such as large stores need a number of these small rooms.
Cost. This design may be more costly because it requires better doors, better walls, and better locks, and perhaps more plumbing. However, it is a better design and well worth the small extra cost.
To save money, and since the rooms are small, they could EASILY be built as complete modules in a factory, and just dropped into place during construction of a building.
Ideally, the modules would be easily replaceable. This way, as the bathroom fixtures and plumbing age or cease to function, one would simply replace the module with another and probably updated new module.
Bathrooms are often on an outside wall of a structure, so there could be a doorway to the outside, or perhaps the back of the module could function as the outside wall of a section of the building.
Interestingly, airplane bathrooms often meet all these criteria, and they work well. Their basic design could be copied.
Occasionally, one sees this type of design in public buildings or stores. In the author’s town, a Trader Joe’s food store has this type of bathroom arrangement.