What Will Public Restrooms Look Like in the Future?

What Will Public Restrooms Look Like in the Future

Answering nature’s call shouldn’t be so hard! Here are some trends we might see become commonplace in the public restrooms of the future.

Clean public restrooms are something all of us pray for every time we go out. But it’s always a struggle to find them. In the U.S., there are eight public restrooms per 100,000 people. While this might seem dire, things are much worse in other countries. 

For instance, according to a survey conducted by the skincare brand Sanfe, 90% of Indian women are afraid of using public restrooms. They say that they would rather hold their pee than use these washrooms. Given the necessity of public restrooms and the lack thereof, one is left to wonder if any effort is being made to improve them, both in terms of their design and availability. With that said, here is a look at ways in which modern public restrooms are being reimagined for the future. 

Touchless technology

One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic made people acutely aware of was contaminated surfaces, especially in public settings. Because of that, we are seeing more touchless technology, like sensor-operated taps, soap dispensers and hand dryers, around us today. According to microbiologists at household appliances company Dyson, we can expect to see touchless toilets, sinks and doors in the future. 

Ecological restrooms 

Climate action has become increasingly important over time. As a result of that, climate consciousness has started bleeding into the sanitation industry as well. A good example of this is the restrooms that have been built in Spain recently. Spanish architecture firm MOL Arquitectura has created a set of public restrooms on a hiking route in Trado, Spain that are both sustainable and complimentary to the local environment. These restrooms have been made using locally and sustainably-sourced materials and consume less than 100 watts of energy. The restroom has regulated plumbing and timed mechanisms that control the water supply. The best part of these restrooms is that they act like a luminary, making them visible to hikers at night. 

Pee stain-less restrooms

A problem that many people must have experienced when using public restrooms is that most of them tend to smell and look disgusting. This will no longer be a problem if hydrophobic paint is used in public restrooms. Such paints create a barrier of air onto a surface; this makes it repel water or any other liquid. 

The first place to use this paint to address sanitation issues is the St. Pauli neighborhood in Hamburg Germany. This neighborhood is a red-light district and attracts a lot of visitors who are notorious for public urination. With the hydrophobic paint lining the walls of local businesses, those who urinate in public run the risk of wetting their pants and shoes. 

Graffiti-proof coating

Some cities in the future might also prioritize the aesthetics of the public restroom. This essentially means keeping them graffiti-free. To make that happen, a graffiti-proof coating can be applied to the surface of the restroom. These coatings are made of paints, glazes or varnishes that prevent spray paints and permanent markers from adhering to a surface. 

One of the first few examples of this comes from Atlanta, the U.S., where The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)’s Lindbergh Center Station has used graffiti-resistant coating on its walls. This coating has turned the walls into a whiteboard, making it easier to clean off any graffiti. 

Self-cleaning systems

To prevent public restrooms from turning into an absolute mess, we might see the emergence of self-cleaning systems. A good example of this comes from India, where a social enterprise called Garv Toilets has been manufacturing self-cleaning toilets since 2014. Garv Toilets are metal structures packed with LED lights and an exhaust fan to air out the space. They self-flush and automatically trigger water jets to clean up the floor after a set number of people use the restroom. These toilets are also energy-conscious; they are powered by solar energy, which keeps their electricity consumption to a minimum. 

Gender neutrality

Today, most public restrooms are for two genders— men and women. To those who identify as non-binary or are transgender, this might seem like an erasure of their identities. For trans people, especially, using a public restroom can become a source of trauma. That’s because they are often denied the use of these spaces, ousted from them and even physically assaulted for their choice of restroom. 

Thus, the public restroom of the future needs to be a space where everyone feels safe and accepted. Gender-neutral restrooms are a helpful step in this direction. One of the places where we are already seeing such restrooms is the West Hollywood neighborhood in California, in the United States. As of December 2022, the West Hollywood City Council has mandated the restructuring of pre-existing restrooms or the construction of new gender-neutral restrooms for all local businesses.

Throughout this list, you must have noticed there are individual examples where these technologies/services have been implemented. But it is equally important to realize that finding such restrooms is like looking for needles in a haystack. Hopefully, as time progresses, local government bodies and those in the sanitation space will follow these examples. By doing so, we can get to a place where hygienic, environmentally friendly and inclusive public restrooms aren’t a novelty but rather something we see everywhere around us. 

Also read:

Workplace Design Trends to Watch in 2022

Header image courtesy of Unsplash

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