Washroom design for the well-educated

With so many rules and regulations surrounding the practicalities of washroom design in educational settings, Daniel Ward of Twyford talks us through the dos and don’ts of sanitary specification for the school environment.

Specifying products for washrooms in the education sector may seem a fairly straightforward task – but ensuring regulations are met and the space is well designed, comfortable and practical is challenging.

Lack of privacy, vandalism and inadequate cleaning and maintenance can make a visit to the toilet an unpleasant and unhealthy experience for students. In fact, recent research undertaken by charity Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence (ERIC) highlighted that the quality of school toilets has a huge impact on pupils’ health, education and happiness. Therefore the design of

washrooms in education premises needs to be about a lot more than simply providing enough toilets and washbasins.

Layout

The overall layout of school washrooms is a good place to start. As well as adhering to regulations regarding wheelchair accessible cubicles, all standard cubicles must have a minimum 450 mm-diameter manoeuvring space that is clear of the door swing. Moreover, when designing spaces for growing children, the sizes and fixing heights of sanitaryware must be suitable for the relevant user age groups, too.

Short projection WCs offer a good solution here, creating the necessary space while still ensuring user comfort. Wall-mounting the pan with a suitable framing system will enable the height of the WC to be easily adjusted during installation to better meet the needs of the user.

Hygiene first

Aside from layout, hygiene in this environment is extremely important too, with ease of cleaning being key to students’ health and well-being. So much so that the Department for Education offers guidance on the issue, stating that to avoid build-up of dirt and germs, the toilets in schools should be wall-hung or back-to-wall.

This also offers a solution with regards to ensuring plumbing work is tamper-proof, a particular point of note when specifying for colleges and universities which serve older children and young adults. The cistern and pipework should be concealed within the framing system, preventing interference, while being easy to access for maintenance purposes.

A dual-flush cistern sitting neatly behind the wall will also help to significantly reduce the amount of water used, while not affecting overall flushing performance. This is particularly important in educational establishments, which are high-traffic areas with the potential for toilets to be flushed literally hundreds of times in any one day.

It is also worth noting that in schools, particularly where younger users are present, the recommendation is also to avoid urinals, but where they are specified to opt for individual bowls rather than a trough, with modesty panels for privacy.

Saving water pays off

The washbasins in school washrooms should also be subject to a number of practical considerations. Ease of cleaning for hygiene reasons remains imperative, making ceramics that are coated with an easy to clean glaze a particular benefit, while the choice of brassware is also important. Not only should mixer taps for washbasins be robust and tamper-proof, but they should be ideally fitted with an automatic shut-off too, either through a built-in timed delivery feature or infra-red sensors.

Energy and water are a major proportion of non-staff costs in schools, colleges and universities and a major part of their environmental impact. While some schools will have greater scope for savings than others, overall more than 20 per cent of energy is wasted, and a school that is equipped with water conservation devices, such as taps with automatic shut-offs or flow restrictors, plus dual-flush WCS, typically use less than half the amount of water used in schools where such features are not present.

Longevity guarantee

Keeping maintenance levels as low as possible is an important requirement in school buildings, where downtime in washrooms can be at best inconvenient for staff and students. This makes the specification of quality sanitary fittings that will be hard-wearing and durable, of particular significance. To limit the frequency of replacing such fixtures and fittings, their life expectancy should be around 15 to 20 years, with a manufacturer’s guarantee providing the best scope for this.

There are undoubtedly a lot of things to consider when designing washrooms for educational establishments, with all elements really carrying equal weight.

The trick to ticking all of them off and achieving a successful design is to establish a strong relationship with a manufacturer who is able to respond to all aspects of a washroom’s design, from layouts and dimensions to styles and materials as standard, so that there is never any need to compromise.

Daniel Ward is product manager – ceramics for Twyford