Operational difficulties and administrative issues such as curtailed movements, impacted bank operations, unavailability of signing authorities are not the only concerns for commercial space providers. Providing restroom solutions that help control contamination is also a major talk point that needs to be addressed.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed human habits almost overnight. As the risk of contagion continues, health and hygiene have assumed top priorities. Besides social distancing, washing hands periodically has emerged as a new normal. Given these conditions, washrooms in residential and commercial areas are being remodelled almost entirely. But the threat of contagion remains higher in commercial washrooms because of their high traffic volumes.
Be it malls, multiplexes, hotels or other commercial premises, addressing current concerns regarding the COVID-19 threat is imperative. Commercial buildings can’t afford alienating customers due to substandard restroom facilities. Besides hurting their brand image, customer footfalls can be hit.
Against this backdrop, architects and developers must pay special attention in implementing proactive measures that prevent or minimise the possibility of virus spread in restrooms. The first factor that needs careful consideration is the restroom design. Stoked by the fear of contagion, contactless or touchless products and designs are gaining popularity. Therefore, entry and exit doors should be automatic or sensor-based, whereby users need not touch doors, doorknobs or surfaces that may be contaminated.
Within the washrooms too, touchless or sensor-based fittings and fixtures are required. Here, smart plumbing systems and allied technologies can fulfil the requirement, helping limit the risk of disease spread through contaminated surfaces. No doubt, any redesigning and installation of smart fixtures and sensor-based doors will call for upfront investments. But the one-time expenses are worthwhile since the safety of patrons and occupants is ensured. Such safety and hygiene measures backed by smart systems can act as a USP in attracting customer footfall.
Furthermore, smart technology provides real-time feedback and alerts before anything goes wrong. This facilitates better maintenance of the premises via proactive work, unlike manual systems. For instance, in manual systems, liquid toilet soap or toilet paper can run out without anyone noticing in advance. As a result, it can result in embarrassing consequences for unaware users.
With real-time technology, such issues can be averted since the maintenance managers are alerted in advance about any supplies running low. Replenishments can be ordered immediately without risking supply fiascos. The timely alerts also help maintenance staff prepare a schedule for restocking supplies periodically.
Similarly, faucets with smart sensors ascertain that the water remains at an appropriate temperature. Water wastage is also avoided since sensors shut off the water supply immediately when not in use, unlike manually-operated faucets.
Systems showing real-time occupancy of cubicles also help in making adherence to social distancing norms easier. Likewise, this can allow the maintenance staff to organise sanitation schedules as per traffic volumes during the day or night.
As events during recent months indicate, institutional precautions need to be backed by personal hand hygiene practices to ascertain the safety of all users in commercial restrooms. Realising the shortfalls in personal hygiene practices that are contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the WHO earlier issued specific guidelines regarding safe handwashing practices for preventing disease spread.
Globally, the current hand hygiene and safe, sanitary practices could end up becoming a permanent feature in commercial buildings and other shared spaces. Accordingly, developers and building managers should be aware of the products available in the market as well as their benefits, which could promote the goal of hygienic restrooms.
Finally, wall-mounted urinals, toilets and sinks are other major elements in promoting more hygienic practices and better maintenance in public restrooms. User-friendly and easier to clean, these sleek wall-mounted fixtures save space and are aesthetically pleasing too. In the post-COVID era, every element will count in ensuring the safety and security of guests and occupants in commercial buildings.