With so many rules and regulations surrounding the practicalities of washroom design in educational settings, Daniel Ward, Senior Ceramics Product Manager for Twyford, talks us through the dos and don’ts of sanitary specification for the school environment.
Specifying products for washrooms within the education sector may seem like a fairly straightforward task, but there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account to ensure not only that regulations are met, but that the space is well designed, comfortable and practical.
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.
Laying out the order
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 450mm-diameter manoeuvring space that is clear of the door swing. And of course, when you are 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.
Aside from layout, hygiene in this environment is extremely important too, with ease of cleaning being key to students’ health and wellbeing. 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 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 modestly panels for privacy.
Water-saving pays off
The washbasins in school washrooms should also be subject to a number of practical considerations. Of course, 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, ideally they should be 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% 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.
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 15-20 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 an equal weight of importance. 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.