The Renaissance of the Restroom

A closer look at five projects redefining the common experience in this private space
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Sponsored by ASI Group and Scranton Products®
By Jeanette Fitzgerald Pitts

Eastwood Village Primary School

The Eastwood Village Primary School, located in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom, was the first primary school to be built in the town in the past 30 years. The academy instructs students from Foundation Stage 2 through Year 4, a timespan that is comparable to preschool through third grade in American schools, and it offers a nursery. Designed by Rotherham Borough Architects, the £6.4-million primary school was intended to be a modern structure that would support learning in every space. As executive headteacher Mark Young explains, “We will make this school what we want it to be, which is successful, exciting, and vibrant. Everything is brand new. It’s purpose-built, and it’s a perfect space for learning.” The vibrant, purpose-fit intention is even visible in the restrooms, which were thoughtfully designed to best accommodate the little people using them.

The Perfect Partitions for Children

The restroom can be a challenging space for children, especially at school. The goal is to design the space so that it feels safe and secure, without the child feeling trapped. Privacy is important, but locking mechanisms can cause confusion and anxiety. From the unique child-sized cubicles to the fixed knobs, finger guards, and durable phenolic partitions, the restrooms at Eastwood Village Primary School provide an excellent example of the difference that a few special details can make.

Child-Sized Compartments

The ages of the students attending Eastwood Village Primary School range from four to nine years old. Designing spaces to accommodate children within this age range can be tricky because of the vast size and developmental differences that exist between children at either end of the span. On this project, designers decided to create smaller cubicles in the restrooms that would be used by the younger children and provide larger compartments in the restrooms accessed by the older children.

Working with a manufacturer that could deliver different-sized panels in the same type of partition system enabled designers to create restrooms throughout the school that featured consistent colors and materials while tailoring the scale of the space to better fit the students using it. Adjustable pedestal feet enabled installers to make field adjustments if the floors were not level, making installation easy and issue free.

Fixed, No-Lock Door Knobs

Locking stall doors in a restroom used by young children can create several issues. A child may forget how to operate the lock, essentially locking himself or herself inside and causing a distressful situation. A locked door may create a barrier that prevents or delays a caretaker or teacher from being able to access a child inside the compartment who needs help. Luckily, an alternative exists that allows a restroom to be designed for young people without a potentially problematic locking stall door.

Fixed door knobs do not include a locking mechanism. Resembling a simple stem, these devices can be used to open and close the door of a restroom stall, providing privacy for an occupant without creating a barrier to entry or exit. At the Eastwood Village Primary School, these fixed, no-lock door knobs were selected for all the student compartments in the building.

“No-Pinch” Finger Guards

Another feature that helps to protect kids in the restroom space is a finger guard. Designed to shield little fingers from getting pinched between the doors and pilasters, finger guards are supple rubber profiles placed between the two panels that cushion the impact and prevent injury. They also add privacy to a stall without having overlapping, routed edges.

Durable and Vibrant Phenolic Partitions

Restroom partitions are available in a number of different materials, each with their own unique characteristics and benefits. While powder-coated steel, stainless steel, and plastic laminate may be more familiar, phenolic is a material that is gaining momentum in the restroom partition market because it is attractive, durable, easy to clean, and available in a wide range of sizes and colors. Phenolic partitions were selected for use in the Eastwood Village Primary School restrooms.

Phenolic partitions matched the aesthetic and performance needs of the Eastwood space perfectly. There is a distinct orange and grey palette that is featured prominently on the exterior of the building as well as throughout many of the interior spaces. The phenolic partitions are available in so many colors that the designers were even able to pull the vibrant orange and grey color theme into the restrooms.

In terms of performance, phenolic materials are antimicrobial, nonporous, water resistant, and impact and scratch resistant, making them extremely easy to clean and difficult to vandalize. The combination of strength and cleanability was an optimal solution for the primary school environment.

Photos courtesy of ASI Group

At Eastwood Village Primary School, designers decided to create smaller cubicles in the restrooms that would be used by the younger children and provide larger compartments in the restrooms accessed by the older children.

New Headquarters of the Sacramento Regional Builders’ Exchange

The Sacramento Regional Builders’ Exchange (SRBX), a non-profit organization that serves Northern California’s commercial construction industry, recently completed a construction project itself, opening a new and ultra-modern 11,000-square-foot headquarters in Sacramento.

Originally founded in 1901 and currently serving more than 1,100 member companies, the SRBX is the construction industry’s oldest and largest association in the region. Dedicated to supporting the development and advancement of its members by offering educational programs, safety programs, bidding information, political advocacy, and creating networking opportunities to connect people within the industry, the new space is the hub of the organization’s important activities. “The new SRBX facility is a central site for member meetings, industry events, and on-site training,” explains SRBX CEO Tim Murphy. “Creating the right look and feel for this space was essential for conveying the professional nature of our organization.”

A New Level of Privacy and Beauty in the Restroom

It can be difficult to impress members of the building industry with the built environment. Designers selected rich blues, burgundies, and wood tones to complement the polished concrete floors and glass walls found throughout the interior. Murals depicting Sacramento’s history and the skyline that its members helped to build are featured prominently throughout the space. The modern and professional theme was also captured effectively in the restroom with the use of a new partition system that elevated the aesthetic and experience of privacy beyond what was typically found. “These new partitions are stylish and beautiful, extremely durable, easy to clean, and you can’t beat the added privacy,” says Murphy. “They exceed the standard of comfort offered in private facilities.”

A New Level of Privacy

The new restroom compartments installed in the SRBX headquarters offer a private experience, free from the gaping sightlines so often encountered in the restroom stall. The enhanced privacy is the result of two unique features that were designed to eliminate sightlines on either side of the door: the shiplap edge and the continuous, edge-mounted hinge.

The side of the door panel that swings open and shut is outfitted with a shiplap edge so that the material of the door physically overlaps with the adjacent pilaster. The overlap creates a reliable visible barrier along the full vertical edge of the door panel, eliminating the opportunity for a sightline to exist.

On the hinged side of the door, a continuous, edge-mounted hinge eliminates the sightlines that often exist above and below the hinges in a typical compartment. The continuous nature of the edge-mounted hinge means that the hinge runs from the top of the door panel all the way to the bottom, creating a continuous privacy seal as well. When the stall door is opened, the hinge is exposed, but the view into the stall remains completely obstructed. When the panel door is shut, the hinge is hidden, providing a cleaner aesthetic.

Made of HDPE Material

The partition system selected for the SRBX restroom is made from a beautiful mahogany-toned high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is one of the most commonly used plastics in the United States. Technically speaking, HDPE is a solid plastic material that is manufactured by compounding polymer resins under high pressure to form a solid, single thickness panel, which is why it is often referred to as solid HDPE.

There are many characteristics of this material that make it a good fit for the restroom space. Solid HDPE panels are nonporous and impermeable. They won’t absorb moisture and resist the growth of mold, mildew, and rust. Many other partition solutions are not manufactured from a solid material and instead feature panels with a core that is vulnerable to mold growth. Plastic laminate panels often have a particleboard core, and stainless-steel and baked enamel panels often contain a honeycomb core made of cardboard. Both particleboard and cardboard will host mold, which, over time, can spread throughout the interior of the stall or partition. Beyond mold resistance, HDPE is a highly durable material that resists dents, scratches, corrosion, graffiti, and rust.

Shoeless Pilasters Deliver Cleaner Solution

Because the HDPE material is moisture and mold resistant, HDPE pilasters can be specified without the shoes typically seen on a traditional bathroom partition system. When the panel material is moisture sensitive, as most of them are, the shoes are designed to keep the panels off the ground. Unfortunately, the traditional shoes provide hiding places for germs, bacteria, and mold to grow, and they are difficult to clean. Eliminating the shoe from the partition system results in a much cleaner-looking solution that is, in fact, cleaner and more sanitary too.

Photo courtesy of Scranton Products®

In the headquarters of the Sacramento Regional Builders’ Exchange (SRBX), the restroom partitions are made from solid HDPE and feature shoeless pilasters, which deliver a cleaner aesthetic that is also easier to clean.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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The Renaissance of the Restroom
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