Have you ever turned to leave a public restroom and realized you were going to grab a handle crawling with critters? You’re not wrong. A Soap and Detergent Association and American Society for Microbiology study showed 34 percent of men and 12 percent of women don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. If visitors to your church have the same concerns, those misgivings may bias or amplify questions about you and your ministry.
If the room is clean, is bigger than it has to be, or has some special touch like a flower on the counter, they’ll often decide that we know how to do things right and be open to learning more about us. If they have a bad experience, we’ll never get a second chance.
A successful real estate developer once told me that “bathrooms are more important to sales than the showroom. A family often stops at our place just to give themselves a break and look around. If the restroom is clean, is bigger than it has to be, or has some special touch like a flower on the counter, they’ll often decide that we know how to do things right and be open to learning more about us. If they have a bad experience, we’ll never get a second chance.”
In response to concerns about hygiene, resourceful people have invented “pinky pulls”, handles that can be operated with an elbow, automatic door openers, foot pedals, and sprayers that disinfect the handle on a regular basis. But there are simpler ways to get bathrooms right. Here are a “handful”.
Door Swings. Seems obvious, but apparently it’s not: swing doors outward, or in the case of separate entrances and exits, in the same direction as the path of travel. This allows occupants to push with coat sleeves or elbows to avoid contact with the hardware.
Gender Inequality. Truth is, women do more stuff and take longer to do it. There’s really no excuse for providing the same number of fixtures for each.
One-Way Traffic. In the case of large restrooms, consider designing for one-way traffic by providing entrances and exits. Because of the differences in fixture numbers required for women and men, I sometimes wrap the women’s restroom around the men’s room. Easing traffic can have nearly as big an effect on wait time as adding fixtures.
Crunch Time. Demand for restrooms will be greater with multiple services or sessions. With a single session, participants sometimes “go” before or after, and do so at home or wherever they’re headed next. Just like at the theatre, there’ll be a big rush in a short period of time if you have an intermission.
Sight Lines. Think about what can be seen from the hallway with the door open. It’s amazing how many layouts offer scenic views of the urinals from the lobby (and vice versa). It’s best to imagine what things would look like if there were no door, since a moving screen doesn’t offer much comfort to occupants. Arrange the room to avoid straight-shot views of sinks or stalls and to avoid inappropriate views reflected in vanity mirrors.
European Stalls. We’ve only tested it once, but consider using European type stalls that include both water closet and lavatory in a full-height enclosure. The difference in space is less than you think and the increase in privacy is significant.
Changing Tables. Provide changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms. Daddy does diapers, too.
Family Toilets. Consider including a “Family Toilet.” (Some Building Codes now require it.) These are essentially unisex handicapped toilets in addition to the usual single gender facilities. They’re not a political statement. They allow Mommies to help young sons, Daddies to help little daughters, and older couples to assist each other.
Shelving. If you encourage people at your church to carry Bibles or take notes, provide shelves over the urinals and over tankless water closets. Toilet accessory manufacturers make standard units, but anything will do. In the worst case scenario, provide a common place to pile things at the entrance. I like the idea of a shelf just above the vanity, too. Water and soap on counters can damage books, paper and purses.
Grout. Don’t use white or light colored grout between tiles. If you do, it won’t stay that way long. Might as well do it on purpose.
Image from FreeImages.com/ReneCerney