Just another day at the office

Trevor Bowers, director at Washroom Washroom, which has carried out a number of high profile office washroom projects in recent years, discusses the key trends which have helped shape today’s office washroom.

Far from seeing the death of the office following predictions that most people would by now be working remotely from home, it remains resolutely popular with new offices springing up at an incredible rate to meet demand. In recent years offices have evolved to meet the changing needs of office workers and providing exceptional quality facilities, including washrooms, is fast becoming the norm.

Washrooms are often used as a benchmark by which to judge the rest of a building and can say a lot about a company. Providing high quality facilities and ensuring washrooms are finished to an exceptional standard will therefore reflect well on the rest of the building and at the same time, can help companies to attract and retain the very best staff. So it comes as little surprise that one of the overarching trends of recent years is the movement towards high specification materials and finishes to create washrooms to cater for office workers who expect gym quality washrooms at work.

Unusual materials and finishes such as glass, anodised aluminium, stainless and textured steel, cast acrylic, Corian, granite, marble and unique wood veneers can all help to create a high specification look and feel more reminiscent of a luxury leisure sector project than an office. Additionally, innovative finishes such as Page Lacquer (pictured above), which allows future wear and tear to be easily repaired and re-polished in situ, and Fenix NTM, which has a tough acrylic resin surface and boasts anti-bacterial properties as well as being resistant to scratches, abrasion and mould, are becoming more readily available and are an ideal way to create the perfect balance between aesthetics and durability.

Natural stone vanities such as Silestone, which is manufactured from natural Quartz, and solid surface materials such as Staron, LG Hi Macs and Corian are all ideal for specification within the office sector. Available in a wide range of attractive colours and textures,while also easy to clean and durable enough to withstand the rigours of a high traffic environment, they enable clients to create completely bespoke washroom space that is as hardwearing as it is aesthetically pleasing.

The need to provide gym quality facilities doesn’t stop at washrooms. As the office has evolved, elements which were once deemed luxury such as showers and changing areas are now seen as standard as the number of people regularly cycling or walking to work has increased and offices which fail to provide such facilities can be viewed as old-fashioned or out-dated. Installing spacious lockers, designed to comfortably accommodate a suit, in addition to using high specification materials and finishes architects can create a facility which would not be out of place in a private gym or leisure club.

As part of the move towards more individual, bespoke washroom designs, colour is increasingly important and thanks to advances in technology, it can now be incorporated throughout the washroom area, as a key part of the design, on cubicle doors, duct panelling systems and splashbacks, as well as vanities. Colour can be used to effectively carry corporate branding throughout the building, creating a cohesive design and unique space.

Another emerging trend within the commercial and particularly office sector, is the installation of so called ‘superloos’. These self-contained unisex cubicles with WC, vanity and hand drying facilities included, are an ideal way to maximise available space and can be installed as an alternative to traditional washroom layouts.

Balancing practical requirements with aesthetic properties is the key to great office washroom design. Future maintenance, whether planned or reactive, should be considered at the very outset to ensure that washrooms continue to make an excellent impression on visitors. Installing an integrated duct panel system ensures that any maintenance can be carried out much more quickly and efficiently with less disruption to end users. Such systems can also be designed to co-ordinate with and complement the rest of the washroom design to create a smooth attractive finish.

In addition to considering the need for future maintenance, clients are demanding washrooms that are as efficient and hygienic as possible, but this needn’t come at the expense of aesthetics. Integrated modular consumable systems, which have been developed to fit neatly behind a mirror, are a popular choice. Designed to save water and soap, they are also easy to maintain and refill, saving energy, time and money, while the use of infrared taps ensures washrooms are kept hygienic.

The trend for high specification washrooms within the office sector has been especially noticeable in and around London, which has recently been named one of the top cities in the world to work. With new offices opening up all the time, investing in office washroom facilities to bring them up to the high standard expected by visitors is vital to ensure offices remain let and therefore profitable.