A Guide to Commercial Restroom Design
Companies put a lot of effort into how they present themselves. They want a good employee culture, so they make sure their employee kitchens have everything people need during their lunch break. They want loyal customers, so they spend time on retail storefront design and excellent customer service.
Yet all too often, companies and employers fail to address one concern in particular: design for a commercial bathroom.
Statistics indicate neglecting this issue will reflect poorly on your company. In a recent survey featured on CleanLink, which covers stories on the public cleaning industry, respondents were forthcoming about the public restroom issues that were most frustrating to them. On the top of the list is empty or jammed toilet paper dispensers. This was followed closely by partition doors that don’t latch, poor sanitation and empty soap and paper towel dispensers.
But the response to another question should be of the greatest concern to companies designing a commercial bathroom. Most Americans say a poorly maintained bathroom means the company that owns it is also poorly run, with 70 percent stating they had recently had a poor experience — either as a customer or as an employee.
That’s why we think every company, church, school, hospital or other institution could probably use some help designing a commercial bathroom. If you read the statistics above and suddenly felt a wave of concern that left you asking, “Where can I find help designing my commercial bathroom?”, look no further!
A Checklist of Commercial Bathroom Design Requirements
Before we get into the specifics of designing a commercial restroom, we should start with basic commercial restroom design requirements. Use this checklist to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything.
- How many people will your restroom need to accommodate?
- What do you want your design to express?
- How durable do the fixtures need to be?
- How much can you afford in initial installation costs?
- How much can you afford in water usage?
- How do you control bathroom odor?
- What sort of local codes need to be observed?
- Does your bathroom meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements?
- If you do need to have your bathroom serviced, is it easily accessible?
- Where can you find help with bathroom design?
Now, let’s look at each item above and make sure your bathroom will meet both your needs and the needs of those who will be using it!
How Many People Will Your Restroom Need to Accommodate?
This should always be your first question, as it will dictate the amount of floor space and plumbing requirements for your design. However, answering that question is not always as easy as counting the number of employees at your company.
You need to start by thinking about high-use times of day. If you are a store that needs to offer a restroom for customers, there will be times when your restroom will hardly get used, and times when it will be very crowded. These times will likely correspond with the busy times during your retail day. Furthermore, if there is a busy season during the year — for retail, that tends to happen around the holidays — this will also increase your bathroom usage.
In a certain sense, you don’t want to invest in a spacious bathroom that regularly only has one or two occupants. However, long lines and frustrated guests can have a negative impact on your corporate image, even if that only happens occasionally. Customers might be understanding if the rest of the store is equally crowded, but you don’t want to have a line running onto the floor of the store once or twice a day!
If you’re building your restroom for employees, your calculations may look a little different. Keep in mind, they will likely be using the restroom more after lunch, so you will still have peak usage times. However, depending on the size of your company, your employees are more likely to know one another, so waiting your turn isn’t as uncomfortable.
Finally, keep in mind that gender is of some importance to this question. According to a study published in New York magazine, women spend twice as long in a public restroom as men. To put this in perspective, another article published in the New York Times had some interesting statistics about the construction of the new Yankee Stadium. The stadium has a capacity of 52,325, and the city Department of Buildings ruled that they needed to provide 358 toilets for women and only 176 toilets for men — with 50 percent or fewer allowed to be urinals. It should be noted that the architects of the stadium exceeded these minimum requirements, a testament to the importance they placed on the fan experience.
What Do You Want Your Design to Express?
Now that you know how many people you need your restroom to service, it’s time to turn your attention to what you want your bathroom to express.
If you own a hotel, for example, you want your bathroom to be luxurious. Wood grain and warm colors can go a long way toward creating this impression.
If you own a store, it’s important your restroom always appears tidy. Stainless steel and bright, light-colored paint is a great choice.
While there are standards all commercial bathrooms should adhere to, there are also subtle ways you can use your design to reflect your institution. It’s much easier to make these choices at the beginning of the design process, so start having those conversations right away.
How Durable Do the Fixtures Need to Be?
We’ve arrived at the standard cost-benefit analysis question of designing a commercial restroom. On one hand, you want your bathroom to be attractive, while also being able to withstand constant use day in and day out. Commercial bathrooms get much more use than their residential counterparts. However, you also don’t want to overpay for a fixture that is going to go unnoticed or doesn’t need to be top of the line.
First of all, don’t just think of initial costs, think more regarding ROI. You may save money using economy-grade materials when you first install your restroom, but if you need to do a complete replacement a few years down the line, this will end up costing you more in the long run.
Furthermore, remember your restroom represents you and your company to your employees or customers. A broken stall door or a cracked sink could potentially cost you a customer, thus losing you money.
Additionally, some expensive and luxurious materials are less durable. For example, wood grain makes anything look luxe, but it’s difficult to keep wood looking pristine in a public restroom because it’s more susceptible to water damage. You may find yourself shelling out for expensive repairs, despite having installed a high-quality, expensive material.
If you’re thinking about an economy installation, do your homework and go with products and materials from manufacturers that have a reputation for durability. There are some cost-savings measures you can take that will still provide durability. However, that will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
How Much Can You Afford in Initial Installation Costs?
While you should focus first on ROI, there will always be a cap on your budget, regardless of how luxurious your commercial bathroom design is.
Your budget will determine many important design decisions. For example, urinals are cheaper than standard toilets. While you certainly can’t install a public restroom with urinals only, budgets can influence the ratio between the two you choose.
Lighting is another choice that can be influenced by budget. While you need to ensure there is adequate lighting, there are certain lighting design choices that can make your restroom much more comfortable. These will also increase costs.
But don’t be afraid to get creative to stretch your budget. In fact, if you can, partner with a design professional who understands working within a budget. Because of their experience, they will have some creative solutions you may not have been aware of.
How Much Can You Afford in Water Usage?
Water usage is an important topic. On the one hand, conserving water is a good idea environmentally, and large facilities with public restrooms are especially taxing on water resources. But conserving water is also a good idea financially, as the utility costs of a public restroom will continue to add up over the life of the facility.
In their guide on budgeting for commercial bathroom water use, the Alliance for Water Efficiency recommends allotting two to four flushes per employee and one to two flushes per customer on average per day.
These numbers are hard to change, and you don’t want to encourage people not to flush! So if you need to limit water usage, it’s best to approach the amount of water used per flush.
According to Conserve H20, federal standards mandate that all new toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. However, high-efficiency toilets have become increasingly popular, and use 1.28 gallons or less per flush.
To save even more water, some commercial bathrooms now feature waterless urinals. These are especially popular in large facilities, where waterless urinals save hundreds of thousands of flushes per year. They’re also popular in areas with high drought concerns, such as Arizona and California.
If you are remodeling an existing bathroom, replacing older toilets — which can use upwards to 5 gallons a flush —will make a drastic impact on your water usage. If this is new construction, consider long-term ROI, as water savings can reduce future costs.
How Do You Control Bathroom Odor?
Bathroom odors aren’t typically the subject of polite conversation. However, when you are designing a commercial restroom, they’re an important consideration.
Ventilation is important for controlling bathroom odors. Not only does this help remove the odors generated by bathroom use, but it also reduces moisture in the air. Moisture will facilitate the growth of odor-causing bacteria. If you are installing new fixtures, make sure to include ventilation. If ventilation is already installed, make sure to regularly clean the fans and filters, as dust and grime buildup can impede air flow.
Your choices in flooring can also influence restroom odors. Grout can collect foul-smelling substances. That means you either need to clean it thoroughly with bathroom-specific cleaning products, or you need to opt for a grout-free flooring surface.
You also need to be mindful about the floor drain found in most public bathrooms. That drain is designed to always hold some water. If it dries out, sewer gases can escape upwards. Regularly fill that drain trap with cool water every two weeks or so.
Also, invest in odor-blocking products specifically designed with commercial bathrooms in mind.
Finally, the type of toilets installed will influence the amount of odor produced. Luckily, most commercial-grade toilets are designed with odor prevention in mind. Unfortunately, older toilets can be problematic, especially older urinals. In fact, in some studies, urine mixed with water — which is commonly left behind in older urinals — can cause a bigger odor problem than urine by itself.
If thinking about bathroom odors seems unpleasant, keep in mind that making a good impression with your bathroom is important. And you’d much rather have this conversation during the design process than overhearing a disgruntled employee or customer complaining about bathroom odors down the road.
What Sort of Local Codes Need to Be Observed?
Local codes vary from place to place. However, they are extremely important, so you must factor them into your considerations.
This is especially important for new constructions, as a code violation in your bathroom design may result in having your building permits rejected. Work with a builder that is familiar with the codes in your area.
Occupancy regulations are the most common local codes, as well as compliance issues related to the number of toilets per regular occupant. In fact, rather than thinking of building codes as a hassle, envision them as helpful guidelines for ensuring you are meeting the needs of your employees and customers.
Does your Bathroom Meet ADA Requirements?
In conjunction with local building codes, you also need to make sure your bathroom complies with ADA requirements. In fact, failing to do so could have profound litigious consequences for you and your company, so it’s highly important to make sure your bathroom is ADA-compliant.
The ADA’s commercial bathroom requirements are very specific, and we don’t have space to fully outline them here. However, there are some key points to keep in mind moving forward.
A single wheelchair must be able to rotate within your bathroom, so there must be at least 60 inches in diameter of free space within the bathroom. Additionally, at least one stall needs to be handicap-accessible, with a space of at least 30 by 48 inches. Finally, handicap-accessible stalls should have a grab bar.
Toilet seats should be between 17 and 19 inches from the ground. Sinks should extend at least 17 inches from the back wall, and have a clearance of 29 inches above the finished floor. Hand dryers need to be touch-free.
While every stall doesn’t need to be considered handicap-accessible, you need to make sure everyone, regardless of ability, can use your bathroom without undue difficulty.
If Your Bathroom Needs to Be Serviced, Is It Easily Accessible?
A common mistake when installing a commercial restroom is failing to plan ahead when considering future service work. However, it’s not realistic to assume your bathroom will operate problem-free for the life of your business.
First, make sure you can get an out-of-order bathroom serviced as quickly as possible. Depending on the number of bathrooms in your facility, repairs can range from minor to a very major inconvenience. Regardless, you want to get the repair done as quickly as possible, especially if you are paying labor costs for the service person. In that regard, you want to make sure your public restroom remains accessible.
However, you also want to think about what being accessible means for those in the area. Plumbing service work isn’t always pleasant, which means you don’t want that work to be front and center. If your restroom is for customers, you don’t want shoppers or patrons put off by service work, as this could cause you to lose customers. If your restroom is for employees, you don’t want service work to hurt productivity.
Therefore, you need to find a delicate balance between making sure your bathroom can be serviced efficiently, with minimal interruption to your daily operations.
Where Can I Find Help With My Bathroom Design?
Hopefully, our above tips have helped you start to envision the perfect commercial restroom design for your company or institution. However, you may still need help, as balancing the many commercial bathroom design requirements and best practices can get overwhelming.
That’s why partnering with a design professional with industry experience is the perfect next step. You know your company better than anyone. By the same token, bathroom design professionals understand the many factors that need to be balanced when creating a new commercial restroom.
Here at One Point Partitions, we have been providing high-quality partitions for gyms, bathrooms and locker rooms for a decade. Our partitions come in a wide range of finishes, ranging from laminate to stainless steel. Similarly, we offer many colors and faux finishes, allowing you to design a bathroom that perfectly reflects your company or institution.
But we know a lot more than simply designing commercial bathroom stalls. In fact, we offer industry-leading bathroom design services. And most importantly, these design services are free.
If you want a little more personal control over your bathroom design, our online design tool is a great place to start. Here, you can play with various design elements and create a digital mockup of your ideal commercial bathroom. From there, our bathroom stall partition designers can give you a quote based on your design, making the ordering process a snap!
However, if you are having trouble getting started and would like to partner with an experienced bathroom design specialist, you can work with one of our design professional. If you have a preexisting space, our designers can use current dimensions to create a new bathroom design layout. If you’re still in the early planning stages, we can give you advice on how much space to assign to your bathrooms.
Beyond that, we can help you make important decisions about the best colors and materials for your needs. You can count on us to work within your budget and durability needs.
Whether you’re renovating or building a whole new facility, we can help you meet your needs. From commercial bathrooms for a multi-story building to small shops, we’re eager to partner with you! If you’re ready to get started on your commercial bathroom design, contact us today.