Public Toilet Design Principles

Bathrooms are one of the most important public resources in any environment, but they’re also frequently overlooked by people who fail to consider the needs of those with accessibility issues. Each toilet needs to be different to respond to the local needs and context of the environment. With that in mind, it’s not easy to list the items that need to be included in every bathroom.

However, what we can do, is list the principles that designers and developers need to consider when it comes to creating public toilets in response to user requirements. For instance:

  • Privacy and safety: All users in a bathroom environment want to have visual and audible privacy, as well as feeling safe when they’re using the toilet, as it is a highly private function. 
  • Accessibility: The design of public bathrooms needs to meet with the specific needs of the user, including minimal standards for accessibility, with handles, circulation spaces, and well-designed heights of fixtures and critical features. 
  • Inclusion: Design should be intended to meet the needs of all communities and populations, including minority groups. This means thinking about single stall designs, signage to reflect all bodies, and the enforcement of policies for anti-discrimination.
  • Attractiveness: Aesthetics are often an important part of making people feel comfortable. The design of bathrooms should be a continuation of the place they are located in. 
  • Ease of hygiene and maintenance: Materials used in the construction process need to allow for easy cleaning, resistance to vandalism, and durability
  • Location and availability: Toilets need to be easy to find and provided in the current number in order to address the needs of various users. 
  • Communication: Toilets should be easily to locate through apps or signage and include relevant information about maintenance and operating hours. People should also be able to easily determine if a stall is available or occupied.
  • Sustainable: maintenance and design needs must consider the use of resources like electricity and water carefully. 

Exploring Bathroom Accessibility

Bathrooms and toilets are essential for the basic needs of human health and wellbeing. While toiles come in many forms, they’re all required to be a private space located within a larger public space. When people are forced to use unsafe, uncomfortable, or inaccessible public toilets, this impacts the access to the places in which the toilets are located. In some cases, this might be a place of work, in others, it may be an entertainment venue, educational facility, open space, or something else entirely. 

Toilets  are a basic human need, and as such they’re always linked to the experience of a specific environment. The wide range of professions that are involved in accessibility, toilet provision and operations are significant. In meetings to discuss the responsibilities and roles of government, financial austerity is often mentioned as a challenge to the ongoing operation and provision of public toilets. 

In the current age of austerity, where costs are being shifted to the private sector, toilets are often seen as a consistent liability and expense – which contributes to their closure. However, it’s important for all groups to see public toilets as the critical investment that they are. When people feel comfortable and capable of using a space, they will enjoy it more and relax. This also means that people are more likely to spend more time and money in the area. According to one study into the ECHO festival that provided portable Changing Places facilities, a cost of £395 allowed for an extra 20-25 people to attend the environment. 

The Changing Places Movement is now taking place in Australia with around 116 facilities available across the country. Unlike the standard disabled bathroom, these spaces allow for an adult-sized changing table and ceiling hoist too.