When Dannielle Miller read a story that included a section on the state of school bathrooms, she was inspired to make school bathrooms more welcoming and nurturing. From there, The School Toilet Project was born.
After a bit of research Dannielle discovered:
- School bathrooms often have inadequate cleaning schedules
- There’s poor sanitation and/or restricted access that can create health problems
- Poor conditions of school toilets prevent children from drinking enough water during the day (in order to avoid having to use the facilities)
- Bathrooms at schools are used as sites for hiding, crying, self-harm and bullying
- A lack of privacy can cause misbehaviour
While not universally true, many school toilets are either sterile and industrial-feeling or covered in filth. Because of this, schools across Australia are working towards redesigning their school bathrooms to make them more welcoming, less sterile in appearance, and less prone to filth.
If your school is considering a renovation, it’s a good time to reimagine the space to consider what may be in the best interest of the students.
Here are a few things to consider when tackling school bathroom renovations:
To make cleaning easier, look for fixtures that are wall-mounted. Sink counters accumulate standing water, so it may be a good idea to add an accompanying shallow shelf where students can place their personal items.
To save water and energy, look for low-flow pressure-assisted toilets, Self closing mixer taps or sensor taps, hands-free faucets, automatic soap dispensers, and motion-detecting hand dryers. Fixtures that are sensor operated save water, electricity and heating costs. They also improve hygiene and can help control vandalism.
Cubicle partitions should guarantee a certain level of privacy. Many school bathrooms have smaller partitions, allowing students to crawl underneath or reach over existing walls. It’s best to ensure the final design lessens gaps on either side of cubicle doors. Partitions should come closer to the floor and be tall enough so that no one can reach over them. The materials used should be easy to clean, rust-proof, and able to withstand vandalism. Cubicle doors can lose their alignment over time. Therefore, they should have sufficient clearance and good lock latch length and function.
When considering flooring options, avoid Vinyl Composition Tile or sheet vinyl that has been proven to crack, tear, and attract bacteria. A smarter choice might be porcelain tiles in larger formats that are much more durable and more modern in appearance. When choosing grout, understand that it will darken with time. Starting with a darker grout is a good idea. Think about corners as well. By using curved tiles where the walls and/or floor meet, you will help make future cleaning easier.
Walls and Ceilings
Ensure that ceilings are treated with anti-fungus and anti-mildew additives. The surface should be able to be cleaned with mild detergent and water, as opposed to an industrial cleaning agent. Similarly, walls should have some sort of non-absorbant covering. Some regions may have stipulations for materials used around sinks or toilets. Walls with at least a partial covering of ceramic tile will help ensure moisture cannot build up and cause the formation of mould or mildew on surfaces. Check local building codes as well to see if there are recommendations on the use of tiles and any specific requirements for tiled walls.
Where possible, daylight will help with a school bathroom’s ambiance. Adding in skylights or clerestory glass will help the area appear cleaner while doing the double duty of reducing lighting requirements. More energy savings can be found by choosing motion sensor lights that will turn off when no one is using the space.
While functionality and longevity often trump design in places like schools that need to ensure a bathroom renovation stands the test of time due to a relatively high volume of traffic, some design elements can be included to help personalise the space for the students. A simple choice, like choosing a lighter colour palette, for example, will help elevate the space, making it feel more open and inviting. Choosing wall decals or adding school-specific design elements (like accent colours matching a school’s official colours) can help liven up the space, making it feel less institutional.
When considering a school bathroom upgrade, it’s a good idea to seek out professional assistance. Experts will be able to ensure the proper permits are submitted and that any state or local regulations are taken into consideration so that the final result isn’t only welcoming for the students, it’s up to code and in line with legal requirements.