Public Restrooms Will Need a Redesign due to the Pandemic

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COVID-19 transmissions are more likely to occur in indoor public places than outdoors. That’s why people need to keep a safe physical distance from each other and observe proper hand hygiene, especially indoors.

One particular area in a commercial building that needs attention is the restroom. It is usually a small area that may not be properly ventilated, making it a danger zone for anyone.

Individuals can take the proper precautions to avoid contracting the coronavirus. They need to wear a mask before entering the restroom, wash their hands right after, use the restroom, and rewash their hands. But ordinary people who come to and leave buildings can also do so much to protect themselves. Building owners also carry the responsibility of keeping civilians safe.

This responsibility may include redesigning restrooms for the safety of all users.

Automatic Doors

Doorknobs can become breeding grounds for the novel coronavirus. It can survive on metal surfaces such as door handles for up to three days. If not properly cleaned, door handles can contaminate many people in only a few hours.

This risk can be eliminated by using automatic doors at the entrance of restrooms. Since an individual no longer needs to hold a doorknob to enter a restroom, they will feel safer.

Touchless Faucets and Soap Dispensers

Other metal surfaces that people interact with inside a public restroom are faucets and soap dispensers. To minimize the need to touch these surfaces, building owners should install touchless fixtures in all their restrooms.

Many people aren’t exactly fond of touchless faucets and dispensers. Some even claim it to be “discriminatory.” For instance, in 2015, a video surfaced where a man encountered a “racist” soap dispenser at a hotel. It can be annoying when soap dispensers and faucets don’t work properly. And restroom visitors may get discouraged and leave without washing their hands.

But amid the pandemic, having them in public restrooms is very important. They present other benefits too, which may be enough to convince building owners to update their restroom fixtures. In an experiment by Stanford researchers, they found that smart faucets can help in conserving water as they reduce the amount of water used in each handwashing session by up to 26%. Thus, apart from helping people stay safe, building owners can save on water utilities by installing touch-free faucets.

Anti-Microbial Coatings

Apart from door handles, faucets, and soap dispensers, many other high-touch surfaces are inside a public restroom. Some of them include grab handles, the lock mechanism of each bathroom stall, and the bidet if any.

One way to keep surfaces safe is by using anti-microbial coatings on them. The most popular anti-microbial material is copper and its alloys, such as brass and bronze. Anti-microbial coatings can help in stopping the growth of bacteria and viruses on a surface. And as a bonus, they’re also cost-effective. They make surfaces look more aesthetically pleasing, more durable, and more resistant to corrosion.

Ventilation

plumbing

Proper ventilation in a confined space is key in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Without proper ventilation, even if two people maintain the appropriate distance from each other or are separated by a plexiglass wall, the risk is still there.

Building managers should check that there is no air recirculation from airconditioning units and other ventilation systems. These units should also be regularly cleaned to ensure that they’re working efficiently. Increasing outdoor air ventilation can also help. So if a restroom has windows, it’s best to keep them open.

Tissues Instead of Hot Blowers

A lot of people think that hot air blowers are safe. And given a choice between a hot-air hand dryer and a paper towel, most would choose the former. But they should really choose the latter to be safer.

One study by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University revealed that these dryers are bacteria-infested. Petri dishes were exposed to hand dryers in a restroom for only 30 seconds. What the researchers found was quite horrific. These petri dishes grew up to 254 colonies of bacteria. Most public restrooms have lidless toilets. Thus, bacteria enter these hand dryers through toilet plumes.

To address this problem, it’s best to have hand dryers removed. They should be replaced with automatic tissue dispensers since they’re much safer.

The pandemic has exposed many shortcomings in different industries and businesses. While a restroom is a tiny area in a commercial building, it’s a place that people frequent. So extra attention should be given to make restrooms safer for all.

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