COVID-19’s Impact on Restroom Design

Here are six design strategies to help keep germs at bay in public bathrooms.

July 20, 2020

MILWAUKEE—Retailers and businesses, plus educational institutions and governments, are taking a closer look at public restrooms in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Chain Store Age reports. “While cleanliness has always been a goal in designing restrooms, coronavirus has underscored the need for hygienic, sterile and safe environments,” said Jon Dommisse, Bradley’s director of strategy and corporate development.

“The goal is to create safe and healthy indoor environments that reduce the spread of airborne and surface contaminants,” said Michelle Kempen with Kahler Slater.

Here are six design strategies that will help keep germ transmission at a minimum in public restrooms.

1. No-touch fixtures. “Voice command and IoT are other up-and-coming hands-free technologies for restrooms,” said Kempen. “Automatic door openers typically seen to support accessible design are now also being implemented in locations to prevent hand-surface contact.”

2. Improved ventilation. “We are seeing clients consider using more robust HVAC systems throughout their facilities but especially in shared spaces such as in restrooms,” Kempen said. “Ventilating with outdoor air is vital to diluting airborne contaminants.”

3. Modified layouts. The European model of gender-neutral restrooms were becoming more popular pre-COVID-19, and there are pluses to that design post-COVID-19. “The European model of stalls forming a perimeter around communal washing stations with open circulation may be a layout we see more of in the U.S.,” Kempen said. “This design can help facilitate one-way traffic and minimize cross-traffic.”

4. Avoiding wet floors. “I see a big opportunity for sleek all-in-one hand washing fixtures that have the soap, faucet and dryer all in one unit to contain water,” Kempen said.

5. Antimicrobial finishes and materials. “Before COVID-19, the design community was seeing a lot of antimicrobial layers and coatings on products,” Kempen said. “We are now seeing a rise from facility managers and building owners requesting this option as an enhanced safety precaution for their customers. Clients are also considering products that are inherently antimicrobial such as copper.”

6. Sink materials and designs. Smooth, nonporous materials with seamless construction make sinks less prone to hold bacteria or mold. “For multi-user restrooms, new washbasin designs with increased space between the hand washing areas allow for social distancing while washing hands,” Dommisse said.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.