Good toilet design provides an attractive, efficient and economic environment. Toilet users benefit from access to clean, efficient and hygienic facilities and providers are able to minimise cleaning costs, maintenance and down time.
An investment in design pays dividends!
Toilets should be designed with a view to easy cleaning and maintenance from the start (with smooth surfaces and avoiding little gaps and crevices). Intelligent design and built-in durability will reduce long-term maintenance and cleaning costs. For use in public areas, however, it is also important, that they are resistant to graffiti and vandalism.
The building materials used inside toilets need to be hygienic and easy to clean.
All drains and waste pipes should be easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance including concealed systems.
All hardware, fixtures and fittings should be easily accessible for repair and maintenance.
A dedicated space should be provided for storage of cleaning equipment. A separate dedicated lockable area should also be provided for maintenance equipment. A low‑level cleaning sink (Belfast type) is recommended so that mop buckets can be filled and emptied easily.
Health and Safety considerations should be taken into account in respect of both toilet users and toilet staff, and therefore materials should be chosen that reduce chances of slipping, falling, infecting or cutting users. Non-slip floor surfaces should be provided and no sharp edges should be exposed. Continuous flooring should be used in preference to material with joins.
Tile grouting absorbs urine and is more difficult to keep clean and odour free. All facilities within the toilet should be at grade level with no steps, thresholds or slopes. However, to avoid the risk of water collecting on the floor it can be reduced by sloping the floor (slightly) to a central drain.
It is often recommended that walls should be tiled or stippled to discourage graffiti. However, irregular textured surfaces can harbour germs and mould.
Pale colours and white, are better in terms of giving a light and clean appearance but may encourage graffiti (in toilets for public use).
To meet the needs of visually impaired people there should be a strong colour contrast between doors and walls, and essential grab rails. To achieve DDA compliance, the walls to which grab rails are attached must contrast in colour with the colour of the grab rails.
Partition ceilings enable easy access to services but secure ceilings may be installed to avoid enclosed ceiling cavities being used to hide drugs and stolen goods (in toilets for public use).
Surfaces can be coated with anti-MRSA agents.
Wall hung lavatory pans should be used in preference to pedestal lavatory pans. This makes the facilities easier to clean as there are fewer places for dirt to collect on the floor.
Lighting, heating and ventilation
The ambient temperature of the toilets should be maintained at a minimum of 15°C for the comfort of users and also to reduce the chances of pipes freezing.
Natural ventilation should be facilitated by attention to the positioning of entrance and exit doors, venting, and windows. Windows that are partially open to assist ventilation during the day can create opportunities for people to peer in, becoming a danger in respect of safety to users of those premises. Extractor fans should be activated by a passive infrared (PIR) movement detection system so that they are not running continuously. Refer to Building Regulations for minimum air changes per hour.
NOTE: Natural ventilation can reduce smells more than the use of artificial air fresheners.
Where electric lighting is provided, movement activated lighting, or automatic lighting that comes on at dusk, should be used if possible. Light pulls and light switches that need to be operated by the user should be avoided for hygiene reasons. If movement activated lighting is used the timers should be set such that the user is not left sitting in the dark. Also, the sensors should be positioned such that all users are detected including children.
Natural illumination should be used wherever possible, because it is more sustainable, cheaper and not subject to vandalism. However, this has to be weighed against the need for adequate light for people to see what they are doing, particularly in respect of disabled toilets and mirror areas.
According to BS 8300 lighting should not be less than 100 lux, and it seems reasonable to apply this to all toilets.