The post-pandemic future of public restrooms –

If COVID-19 has made you wary of using public restrooms, you are not alone.

About three-quarters of Canadians were more concerned about visiting public toilets during the pandemic, and more than half planned to use the facilities less frequently, according to a 2020 Dyson survey. As COVID-19 variants continue to pose a threat, architects, facility managers, and technology companies are rethinking bathroom design to minimize risks.

Darryl Condon, managing partner at HCMA, an architecture and design firm with offices in Vancouver, Victoria and Edmonton, says that public restrooms will look very different in the future, and for good reason. “There is a greater desire to see cleaning in action and less tolerance for clutter in public restrooms,” he says. “The more comfortable people are, the more secure they feel and the more likely they are to participate in public life again.”

With businesses reaching full capacity and office workers slowly returning, Salomé Gião, senior microbiologist and scientist at Dyson, says that one of the most effective things you can do to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses is to practice good hygiene. of hands. While public health messages have focused on hand washing, Gião says that drying your hands well is just as important.

“Wet hands can transfer up to 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands,” he says, citing a landmark 1997 study², adding that cleaning them on clothing can add even more germs if the clothing is not clean. Limiting contact with the surface can significantly help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, which is why 42 percent of Canadians are concerned about pressing buttons on hand dryers, according to the Dyson survey. Non-contact hand dryers, as a hygienic and effective solution, are key to alleviating this public apprehension, says Gião, who hopes to see more non-contact technologies not only in hand dryers, but also in toilets, sinks and doors.

The Gião bathrooms of the future will also have cleaner air. The Canadian government has published guidelines on how to improve indoor air, ventilation and filtration to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and Gião urges facility managers to follow them.

While some studies have suggested that hand dryers can spread pathogens, a review of the literature published this year in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that such studies lacked rigor, used small samples, or tested unrealistic scenarios like washing gloved hands. in a soup of bacteria. and viruses and drying them immediately. The review concluded that there is no evidence that hand dryers present any health risks.

TO new study commissioned by Dyson and conducted by Airmid Healthgroup, a biomedical research organization specializing in aerobiology, compared the use of a Dyson Airblade hand dryer to paper towels. They found that walking, washing hands, and drying hands using either method generated a similar amount of aerosols – tiny particles (of liquids, solids, or both) suspended in the air that can contain bacteria and viruses, and had no significant impact. in the surrounding air³. “It is a myth that jet air dryers are not hygienic and carry bacteria and viruses,” says Gião.

Calgary’s CORE Mall was one of the first malls in North America to install Dyson Airblade 9kJ hand dryers in its bathrooms. For Domenic Mazzocchi, director of property management at the center, the choice came down to the fact that they don’t need to be refilled regularly like paper towel dispensers and they are more sustainable. “Since COVID-19 is the most important thing to our buyers, we were looking for a hygienic solution that would provide improved capabilities and meet our sustainability requirements,” he said. Based on a life cycle analysis, the Dyson Airblade emits up to 85% less CO2 emissions than paper towels.

People’s concerns about public restrooms have accelerated some design changes and spurred others, according to Condon. One change already underway was the move towards universal bathrooms, which welcome people of all genders, include private and common areas, and feature accessible design elements like sinks and hand dryers mounted in a variety of heights. . These bathrooms facilitate more frequent cleaning (because people of any gender can do it), improve air quality (because windows can be opened in common areas without privacy concerns), and encourage better hand hygiene (because more people can reach the sinks and dryers). ).

“In the past, bathrooms were kept to a minimum in area due to conflicting costs and demands, but I think we are going to see that they will be given more area because they are sensitive to larger clearances and clearances,” he says. These larger bathrooms, particularly important in spaces with periods of heavy use, such as movie theaters and sports venues, will allow for circular patterns of movement with separate entrances and exits, similar to grocery store design.

Given our increased awareness of cleanliness, Condon predicts increased public demand for surfaces and materials that can be easily cleaned and won’t appear dirty when they’re not. Painted walls, for example, are much more difficult to keep clean and look clean than tile, he notes.

Condon and his colleagues are already integrating many of these ideas into their projects. “We have several projects in the design phase that are different today than they would have been before the pandemic and are further along in the evolution towards inclusion and equity,” he says. “Our clients are feeling pressure from their communities and recognize that this is an area that we must approach with a new mindset.”

Reduce the spread of bacteria:

Advice from Salomé Gião, Senior Microbiologist and Dyson Scientist, on Safe Use of a Public Toilet

  • If there is a toilet seat, lower it before flushing
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, when available. If not, use a hand sanitizer gel.
  • Dry your hands completely and avoid rubbing your hands, as this could kill bacteria from the lower layers of your skin.
  • Avoid touching surfaces after washing and drying your hands.
  • Spend as little time in the bathroom as possible.

About the Dyson Airblade

Learn more about Dyson hand dryers here.

1 Global survey conducted in July 2020 in 14 countries around the world (UK, DE, ES, FR, IT, NL, US, CA, MX, CN, JP, MY, SG, AU) with 8,758 respondents in total (525 in Canada), over 18 years old. Individual percentages vary by country. 2 DR PATRICK, G. FINDON and TE MILLER: Residual moisture determines the level of bacterial transfer associated with contact with contact after hand washing, Epidemiol. Infect. (1997): 119, 319-325. 3 Based on aerosolization measured during hand drying. Testing performed by an independent external laboratory. 4 Carbon Trust measured the environmental impact of electrical appliances and paper towels. The calculations were performed using Footprint Expert Pro software, based on the use of the product for 5 years and using weighted averages for each country of use. Product drying times were evaluated in Max mode using DTM 769.

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