Relief for multigenerational restroom design

In multigenerational design, hygiene amenities should not only be accessible to all, but also easily maintained to ensure diligent replacement of critical consumables like soap and paper towels. For example, children have special hygiene considerations, as they are not only more susceptible to infections, but also may not be able to reach and use soap and towel dispensers. Failure to consider this may result in decreased use of hygiene amenities as well as increased risk of bacterial contamination.

To better serve the operator, attention should be paid to the interrelated concerns of hygiene and maintenance, such as timely refills of baby-changing station liners and disposable toilet liners, which are increasingly preferred by many users. Additional maintenance considerations include waste receptacles with lids for the disposal of soiled diapers, as well as diaper disposal bags to reduce odor, contamination, and visibility.

Hygiene is a major concern for all users of public restrooms. Solutions for maximizing usage and effectiveness of hygiene amenities include hands-free and automatic paper towel and soap dispensers, as well as automatic hand-dryers and plumbing fixtures. Proper ventilation is also required in restrooms, with air change mechanisms that meet code minimums as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors to control fans and HVAC supply. When possible, antimicrobial surfaces that can be cleaned easily should be considered.

Additional lighting and noise considerations
Some multigenerational design considerations extend beyond the four general categories presented. Properly serving these demographics may require lighting adjustments for vision-sensitive users—namely, elimination of high-glare lighting. Low or adjustable lighting in certain areas of the restroom can create a more appropriate atmosphere for nursing or baby changing. Additionally, specifying low-noise hand-dryers (i.e. less than 75 dB) can help maintain a pleasant atmosphere for hearing-sensitive users, young or old.

For an increasingly multigenerational user base, specifiers must strive to balance a variety of solutions to create more equitable, comfortable, and long-lasting restrooms. Amenities like baby-changing stations, privacy features, and ADA-compliant accessories can provide both return on investment (ROI) and a potential market advantage for the building owner in the form of return visitors and more satisfied families and customers who appreciate the accommodations.

By serving the multigenerational market, building owners also enjoy increased market differentiation and leadership. Surveys have shown retailers offering child accommodation amenities enjoy greater patron loyalty—for example, the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) 2014 survey revealed nearly seven in 10 American diners take into account a restaurant’s family- or child-friendliness when choosing where to eat. Increasing the quantity and range of types and sizes of public restrooms is socially responsible and a major trend for civic-minded, business-friendly municipalities and establishments nationwide.

In recent years, public restrooms have become a design opportunity that can deliver inclusiveness integral to today’s multigenerational trends and the movement toward architectural decency. They also provide relatively direct opportunities for designers seeking to build healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities for all citizens.

David Leigh is vice president of marketing at Bobrick Washroom Equipment Inc. He previously served as director of sales and marketing at Koala Kare Products prior to Bobrick’s 2004 acquisition of the commercial child-care product company. Leigh is responsible for overseeing all of Bobrick’s marketing efforts, including marketing strategy, media outreach, and opportunity analysis. He can be reached via e-mail at

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