A bathroom is a staple in any type of building, whether that may be residential, industrial, commercial, or institutional. After all, when nature calls you have to go.
Oftentimes, the first thing people look for when walking into a washroom is whether or not it is clean and accessible. For some people, clean bathrooms might even determine whether or not they return to a business.
According to a Bradley Corps’ annual Healthy Handwashing Survey, conducted in February 2020, a growing majority of consumers value businesses that have well-kept washrooms. In fact, according to the survey, 62 per cent of respondents said that they would either “definitely” or “probably” shell out more cash in response to clean restrooms. In 2018, the same question saw only 45 per cent.
The same study also found that three out of four Americans make it a point to visit a business because they know it has nice washrooms. The findings are part of the 11th annual report that queried 1,005 adults and youth through the United States about public restroom preferences. “Increasingly, our survey underscores that clean restrooms attract business,” says Jon Dommisse, vice president of marketing and corporate communications at Bradley Corp. “Even posting and maintaining a cleaning schedule in restrooms helps reassure customers the facility is clean. Over half who have observed such a schedule say it makes them feel more positive about the business.”
Over the last two years, the commercial bathroom industry has seen plenty of changes due to a rise in health consciousness, explains Lisa Lasko, senior segment marketing manager at Moen. As such, touchless technology has become even more desirable and relevant.
Whereas certain areas of the skilled trades have seen a decrease in the market, the commercial bathroom industry has been in a period of steady growth. “After a near stop in the beginning of 2020 due to COVID-19, the landscape has been constantly shifting,” explains Navin Leeladhar, sales leader commercial projects at American Standard. He adds that retrofits were on the rise in late-2020 and into early-2021, while in 2022, the industry saw a shift towards new construction.
For new construction, commercial bathroom projects have mostly been in the healthcare and education sectors, explains Marnee Colman, senior marketing manager, North America commercial business at Masco Canada Ltd.
She isn’t the only person in the industry to have noticed this trend. According to Jerry Babin, general/specifications manager at Morris Lee Ltd, there is a lot of work being done in the healthcare and education sectors. “COVID over the last two years has exposed a great many deficiencies that our provincial/federal governments have neglected over the years, and they are trying to catch up,” explains Babin.
For example, in Toronto, there are tons of building upgrades that need to be done, “COVID exposed that a lot of them either have no air conditioning, windows that don’t open or need upgrades to existing facilities. The dollar valve backlog is over a billion dollars,” said Babin. “In most hospitals, someone suffering a mental health breakdown goes in through the ER. They are put in a room that is not geared for them and they post a security guard in front for all to see. In essence, its like being in a holding cell,” said Babin, speaking from a personal experience.
When it comes to upgrades made to commercial bathrooms, one the most common trends have been concerning electronic or sensor operated products. This includes both faucets and flush valves.
More and more people in high-traffic environments with high touchpoints are concerned about the reduction in the transmission of bacteria. High touchpoints in a commercial bathroom could mean handles (door and faucet), grab bars, soap dispensers, or paper towel dispensers.
Another emerging trend is the use of solid surface materials such as Corterra or Corian for sink or lavatory combinations, explains Babin. “Solid surface materials for countertops with integral lavatories is taking over what was vitreous china lavatories and laminated countertops. Counters with integral bowls are much easier to clean, and delamination of particleboard countertops is no longer an issue.”
Additionally, in recent years, composite polymer faucets have started to enter the market. It is a robust plastic that is lead- and nickel-free, and are increasingly being used in light commercial applications.
Green building codes
Environmentally friendly products are another growing trend within the industry when it comes to commercial bathrooms, “It’s a trend that’s been embraced by the industry, and developers have been motivated to meet green building codes and standards, not only for sourcing of their products but also the operation and ongoing maintenance.” The industry has seen an increasing amount of eagerness to adapt.
When it comes to style and design choices, the type of application determines the end result. This means that in places such as healthcare and education, the design will value functionality over style. Whereas, in places such as offices or restaurants, the project will likely find more of a balance between style and functionality, explains Colman. She also adds that when it comes to designer finishes, “Chrome has always been standard, but we are starting to see more designer finishes, which includes matte black, stainless, and bronze.”
It’s important to remember to select products that are commercially graded while also adding to the overall style of your business. “These products are used daily, multiple times, and you want products that are warrantied,” said Colman.
Leeladhar also points out that its important to remember that “As the market is becoming highly competitive, there is a greater need to look at alternate materials without compromising design, safety and functionality.”
Although the industry has been able to keep up with the growing number of new products, the largest issue facing manufacturers right now related back to the global supply chain issue. The ability to get raw materials has been directly impacted, which has led to longer lead times. “What was a six or eight-week lead time is now 12-14 weeks and, in some cases, even longer,” explains Babin. He suggests ordering products in advance as last minute orders are getting more difficult to pull together.