HPAC Magazine

High-performance commercial restroom fixtures

February 1, 2014 | By Kris Alderson

Next-generation technologies address demands of building management, front-line plumbing staff and end-users.


Over the past few decades commercial restroom design has undergone a true transformation. Emerging materials, products and technologies have changed the look, function and lifecycle of restroom furnishings, enhancing the total restroom experience from staff to consumers. 

Compared with the restrooms of the 1980s, 1990s and even early 2000s, today’s well-designed commercial restrooms look more aesthetically pleasing and incorporate more conveniences and user-friendly features, making them more amenable to highly impressionable end-users. This attractiveness and feeling of quality, in turn, helps to create a favourable view of the overall business and management. 

New and innovative materials and technologies are also helping plumbing and building management operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. The latest product advancements minimize time and costs for installation, maintenance, repairs and replacement parts, so staff can focus on other duties and projects. 

When specifying high-quality restroom furnishings – lavatories, partitions, toilets and other washroom accessories – consider how the following new product trends are transforming today’s restrooms and extending products’ life cycles. 


More manufacturers are incorporating sustainable materials into restroom products, which in addition to environmental benefits, often increase the durability, maintainability and life span of these products. For fixtures such as lavatories and partitions, materials made of natural and recycled materials are more commonly used. Many of these products are also GREENGUARD-certified, which means the product contributes to indoor air quality by meeting strict chemical and particle emission standards. 

For example, a durable and sustainable natural material now available for lavatories is a moulded natural quartz material that can be sculpted into a range of attractive design options. Composed of an eco-friendly resin made of soy and corn, natural quartz is virtually maintenance-free since it does not require sealing, buffing or reconditioning like granite. In addition, its smooth, seamless finish has a non-porous surface, so it does not support microbial growth and is easy to clean. 

Solid surface lavatory countertops made of recycled materials and rapidly renewable material also help ensure durability, ease of cleaning and long-term maintenance. Solid surface resists stains, chemicals, scratches and heat, reducing the likelihood of repairs and the need for replacements. Surface marks and scratches are repaired easily with everyday cleaners or fine-grit abrasives, making the material very easy to clean and maintain. The integrated bowl design used with solid surface lavatories also eliminates crevices for microbes to hide and further helps prevent the spread of germs.


It is no secret that restrooms are breeding grounds for bacteria. Touchless fixtures minimize the touchpoints in the restroom – a major issue for restroom users. As a recent survey* about hand washing behaviour revealed, people go to great lengths to avoid coming into contact with germs in public restrooms. Survey respondents report operating the toilet flusher with their foot (64 per cent) using a paper towel when touching the restroom door (60 per cent) and faucet handles (37 per cent) and opening and closing doors with their hip (48 per cent).

As restroom users continue to have a greater awareness and sensitivity to germs in public places, touchless fixtures may help reduce the transmission of germs and bacteria from users’ hands and improve overall hygiene as users leave the restroom area and enter other parts of the building.  

Touchless fixtures also help in upgrading restrooms to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that faucets are operable with one hand, without tight gasping or twisting and should be activated using a maximum of five pounds of force. Capacitive-sensor controlled faucets are among the best solutions for meeting this requirement, and eliminate user frustration because the entire spout is a sensor field that detects a user’s presence from any angle of approach. 

While touchless fixtures are user-friendly and convenient for consumers, they are also easier for staff to keep in good working condition. The “hands-free” design reduces wear and tear from usage, and helps divert vandalism attempts such as leaving a faucet running to create a mess in the restroom. Sensored faucets prevent excess water spillage with an automatic shut off.

Speaking of overflowing water, wet floors stand out as a crucial issue to be addressed by building management. Newer lavatory fixtures use design features to minimize water splashing on the floor, such as all-in-one hand washing units, so that users walk with dripping wet hands in search of a towel or hand dryer.


Canada’s plumbing industry is no stranger to the concept of green design and the long-term operational and environmental benefits of using low-flow fixtures. Still, the latest statistics on water usage in commercial buildings are telling. According to the 2013 BOMA BESt Energy and Environment Report, for the period of January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012, the average water consumption intensity for BOMA BESt (Building Environmental Standards) certified buildings was 0.6 m³/m², compared with the national average for water consumption in commercial buildings, which is 2.03 m³/m². Water consumption, calculated from water bills, varies widely from 0.1 m³/m² range to over 2.2 m³/m².

Low-flow fixtures can make a significant difference in commercial facilities. Some of the newer hand washing fixtures incorporate hands-free infrared 0.38 gallons per minute (gpm) faucets that reduce water usage by 24 per cent over 0.5 gpm faucets, and even more in buildings that use
1.0 gpm or more.

Paper waste is another environmental issue that, in part, is exacerbated by paper towel usage. According to Environment Canada, paper and paper products accounts for more than one third of Canada’s municipal solid waste. High-speed touchless hand dryers help promote hand-drying with the hygienic benefits but without excess paper waste and expense, and extra maintenance. Newer models are also energy efficient, as they use 80 per cent less electricity than other hand dryers, while drying hands in as little as 10-12 seconds.  


As durability and maintainability features continue to improve, today’s emerging commercial restroom products are expected to last for up to 20 years – a major improvement from the seven to 10 year lifespan of yesterday’s products. While periodic updates for partitions, paint, lighting and accessories will help keep a restroom’s look fresh and current, the newer “high-performance” centerpieces of restroom design are built to stand the test of time and repeated usage in even the most heavily trafficked restrooms.  <>

Kris Alderson is a senior marketing manager for Bradley Corporation, a USGBC member and manufacturer of locker room products, plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, partitions and emergency fixtures. www.bradleycorp.com

Web Resources

About GreenGuard

*Handwashing survey

BOMA BESt Energy and Environment Report 2013 (BBEER) – Full Report





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