Richard Braid, Managing Director of water management specialists Cistermiser and Keraflo, reviews the latest bathroom design trends in multi-occupancy and managed residential properties like care homes and retirement living schemes
Bathroom and washroom design continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our society and where society goes, good design innovates to offer fit-for-purpose solutions. There are currently significant societal trends that are impacting the demands being placed on our bathrooms’ and washrooms’ purpose and performance: the Green Agenda putting more focus on water and energy saving; higher levels of safety, hygiene and well-being, after lessons learned during the Pandemic; the requirement for gender neutral facilities; a housing shortage leading to a rise in multi-generational households where bathrooms need to cater for young and old alike; and finally, the unstoppable rise of an aging population either supported by carers in their own homes, or living in shared housing schemes and care homes.
Safeguarding the burgeoning care home sector
If ever our healthcare sector and looking after older people was under the spotlight, it’s over recent years in the midst of the Pandemic. But the challenge of planning and delivering care and housing for an ageing population is not new. It’s a major theme for us all, not only personally but encompassing every housing, care and health partner in the private and public sectors. By 2030, one in five people in the UK will be 65 or older, so it’s no surprise that we need to look at future-proofing the design and build of new facilities and adapt existing care homes, so they’re fit for purpose. To add some context, according to the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) there are 730,000 retirement housing units across the UK and more than half of these homes and facilities were built or last renovated 30 years ago. Now is the time for our sector to look at harnessing technology to support this drive for safe, healthy homes for this fast-growing demographic.
The answer is in the Clouds
Larger scale retirement living schemes and care homes often have many bathrooms and thousands of water system outlets to monitor, and due to difficulty of accurately and consistently being able to manually read water temperatures, water provision – with the real threat of legionella – can be perceived as a problem child. It’s not a surprise when you consider the significant resource restrictions on a sector already in crisis. Not only is this strategy open to human error, but inordinate amounts of time are also spent by staff who could be otherwise more valuably engaged. Of course, the worst case scenario of getting things wrong, is the very real threat of Legionella outbreaks in buildings that are already housing more vulnerable people.
Enter the Internet of Things and Cloud based technology.
Intelligent Temperature Monitoring Units (TMUs) like LinkThru TMU from Cistermiser, deliver automatic wireless monitoring, providing real-time temperature readings on a computer screen, in order to track and monitor hot and cold water temperatures in pipework systems which are critical to risk assessments. A connected TMU can be retrofittable and is typically fitted onto water outlet pipework, distribution pipework including risers, calorifiers, cold water storage tanks and many other sentinel points across a building’s water system.
Each TMU takes a reading every ten seconds and then sends temperature and flow event data to a cloud-based portal on an hourly basis. Recorded data includes maximum, minimum and average temperatures.
Living well thanks to non-touch
Technology is also at the heart of bathroom design in retirement living schemes where residents live in their homes with a level of independence but still require support. It’s a fact that we’re probably all familiar with, but our ageing population, possibly living with dementia or even just less dexterous than they were, need help when using their toilet. We’re seeing this help come in the form of InfraRed (IR) technology, which is growing day by day in the bathroom solutions we’re designing, manufacturing and selling. IR has started to consign traditional toilet flush handles to history, firstly in commercial washrooms and now in domestic bathroom settings. Arthritic elderly hands might find lever handles difficult to crank or fiddly dual-flush mechanical push-buttons tricky to use. To overcome these problems, infrared sensor-activated WC flushing valves, such as the Easyflush combined flush and filling valve from Cistermiser, can be installed in either Walkaway or Wave options. The toilet flushing is activated by ‘touchless’ operation (with a wave of the hand), or ‘occupancy sensing’ operation (by simply standing up and walking away from the WC). Of course, the other benefit of IR with more vulnerable people, is that if a carer is assisting to perform multiple simultaneous tasks in the bathroom, the use of no-touch activation helps to get everything done quickly, easily and hygienically.
Giving your customers what they want
With change comes opportunity, something which our sector has so much of at the moment. From Cloud based TMU, to non-touch IR products, suitable for new build or refurbishment, we all have the opportunity to offer solutions that are of their time and future proofed. Through education, collaborative working and open conversation, I believe that together we can continue to shape the bathrooms of the future.