Hand Dryer Technology and Accessible Restroom Design

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Sponsored by Dyson, Inc.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Discuss technological advances in commercial restrooms, and best practices for restroom design.
  2. Summarize the requirements outlined by the ADA and others for restroom accessibility.
  3. Describe considerations for the design of restroom lavatory and sink areas, with attention to issues of hygiene and sustainability.
  4. Outline the relative merits of various hand-drying solutions, as they impact accessibility and universal design, sustainability, hygiene, performance, and aesthetics.


This test is no longer available for credit

The short history of commercial and public restroom design is largely linked to developments in our understanding of hygiene and public health. One major example is the Occupational Health and Safety Act signed into law in late 1970, which placed requirements on employers nationally for sanitary facilities for workers.1 These include determinations of the number of water closets based on the number of employees, among other requirements for sanitation and health, although it did not include rules on such variables as hand-drying methods and practices.

Architects have designed solutions to meet the rules over the years, clearing budgetary and aesthetic hurdles and conforming to law, building code, good hygiene, and common sense. One rarely sees marble partitions in public restrooms any longer, for instance, not only because of the expense but also because of maintenance issues and the availability of newer, better materials. Even floor-mounted toilet bowls, once the rule, are rarely specified for new commercial restroom projects with multiple stalls.

Yet no single law or code precipitated as much innovation for the design of U.S. commercial restrooms as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Along with updates to building and energy codes and standards for sustainable design, ideas and rules promulgated through the ADA drive design teams to high-performing, efficient restroom systems that require little maintenance and are relatively easy to use for all occupants and visitors. Restroom product manufacturers have responded with thousands of innovations supporting these goals, from partitions to flush systems to hand dryers.

Of the myriad issues surrounding commercial restroom design, the development of novel high-speed unheated electric hand dryers, including air-knife technology, is an emerging opportunity for continued innovation. A look at the context in which it plays an increasing role is a valuable start.

New technologies are changing restroom design, such as this restroom fixture that combines an air-knife-type hand dryer with a touchless water faucet, to be mounted above the lavatory sink.

Image courtesy of Dyson Inc.


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Originally published in October 2013