As one of the most heavily used facilities, bathrooms need extra consideration. As the movement to minimise water consumption gains ground, in tandem with adopting higher standards of hygiene, bathroom manufacturers and interior designers alike are coming up with solutions that are innovative in both — concept and technology. We speak to a few well-known suppliers who share why technology is becoming such a big factor in bathroom design.
RIDING ON TECHNOLOGY
One of the most prolific firms in the sector, Geberit, aims to make bathrooms as comfortable as possible on the back of technology. Since creating the first concealed cistern in 1964, to brining shower toilet technology to the market with AquaClean, the Swiss firm has been at the forefront of bathroom innovation for over 140 years. “Geberit spends approximately 2.6% of its annual turnover worldwide (about two million Swiss francs) in research and development,” says Louise Pitt, Geberit’s Dubai-based marketing manager. Among its array of recent products include the compact shower toilet, Geberit AquaClean Tuma, which expands the popular AquaClean shower toilet range.
Rimless toilets are increasingly becoming the norm for their better hygienic characteristics and function. “Rimfree toilets are very easy to clean and feature an excellent flushing performance,” says Pitt.
Spanish brand Roca, too, is extensively promoting the use of rimless WCs and smart toilets with integrated bidet function.
“There is a strong trend towards textures and finishes as well as clean simple design, which is emphasised through the use of lighting and mirrors in residential and hospitality bathrooms,” says Guy Wilson, managing director, trade and projects, MEA, Sanipex Group, which represents such brands as BagnoDesign. “On the other hand, public washrooms continue the move towards a touch-free, hygienic and practically functional environment through the use of auto flush systems, sensor taps and hand driers. Spa-inspired residential bathrooms take advantage of innovation in showering experiences through the use of multi-function showers and chromotherapy features.”
Geberit’s research-based product innovations reflect the developments that have taken place in the field of electronics. Pitt explains the function stressing on the comfort and hygiene aspects:
“When you approach the shower toilet, the WC lid lifts up and the seat heating and the storage water heater for the shower are activated. The shower arm cleaning function, dryer and odour extraction unit are also triggered automatically. When you walk away from the toilet, it flushes automatically without you having to touch anything and the lid closes once again.”
SensoWash by Philippe Starck for Duravit
Roca’s new collection, Modo, is made out of a new and exclusive materials called Surfex, described as a breakthrough in manufacturing technique when it comes to bathroom design, by Victor Schooner, Roca’s country manager, Middle East. “Surfex is a malleable solid surface, which has been formulated from a combination of minerals and resins, allowing to create custom-made shapes that were unthinkable till now,” he says. “The Surfex solution is poured into the production mould, which allows for complex design pieces with no joints and seams. The flexibility of this material allows for complete free reign in creating different shapes and sizes.”
Innovation in bathrooms continue in the form of materials, shapes and added functional aesthetic features. Tony Elkadi, Duravit’s head of projects, Middle East, shares that the company collaborated with designer Kurt Merki Jr. to create a furniture range that is especially attuned to the design of the contemporary DuraSquare washbasins. “The striking feature is the quadrant-shaped chrome profile edging the furniture,” he says. “It continues the corner radius of the washbasin, creating harmony and at the same time a striking independence.” The chrome-finish can be applied to the entire furniture range in this collection.
Wilson of Sanipex Group observes that modern bathroom fixtures echo the functional style prevalent in contemporary design. “Bold lines and angles blend seamlessly with organic shapes creating a relaxing bathroom experience,” he says.
DESIGNED FOR PUBLIC SPACES
While plumbing and hygiene are important aspects of public restrooms, durability and ease of maintenance are also crucial considerations. According to Elkadi, ceramic materials are still the most durable, robust and long-lasting. He says: “New ceramic processes innovated by Duravit, such as DuraCeram allow for new and technical design possibilities, particularly in washbasins. DuraSolid, a proven cast mineral material, makes it possible to form completely new design products. Exact edges that are normally difficult to achieve by thermoforming are easy to complete with this material. The resulting baths have no visible joints or seams and thanks to the material structure, have a velvety, matt surface finish.”
Schoone agrees that porcelain and vitreous china fit the bill for bathrooms that are highly frequented. Pitt of Geberit shares the company’s strong emphasis on making public bathrooms more hygienic, easy-to-maintain and safe from vandalism. “Financial considerations play a key role both during installation and in everyday use. Geberit allows you to plan and implement solutions which are both aesthetically and functionally tailored to the requirements of different public sanitary areas. Safe, touchless and automatic Geberit WC flush controls and touchless taps ensure that they are activated reliably.” The company also offers flush plates for WCs and urinals, as well as covers for infrared controls.
Duravit's barrier-free bathroom design
“Touchless and automatic fixtures and fittings contribute to the overall hygiene of high-traffic bathrooms while also offering enhanced longevity by minimising physical contact,” says Wilson, adding that durable stainless steel accessories are now available in a variety of design options allowing for the public washroom to become a focus of design rather than a purely functional space.
While Roca’s In-Wash Inspira range combined with In-Tank Meridian offering continues to offer benefits in terms of economical water consumption, Duravit has a programme in place to return everything to the production cycle, wherever possible.
“All materials used at Duravit can be re-supplied and sanitary ceramic can be re-used in different ways,” says Elkadi. “As a rule, re-usable raw materials such as ABS plastics, board materials, fittings and glass are used for the bathroom furniture. As it is easy to dismantle, the furniture can be disposed of in accordance with the raw materials used.”
Geberit has a comprehensive range of products that are all regarded as sustainable sanitary solutions made using eco-friendly materials, which contribute to increased quality of life with low energy and water consumption.
The in-depth sustainable philosophy also takes into account sound insulation and simple product disposal as part of responsible product design – a practise also adopted by Duravit.
Tamps by Roca
“We have in place the Environmental Product Declarations for Geberit’s AquaClean Mera, urinal system, washbasin taps 185 and 186, Brenta and Piave ranges as well as the sanitary ceramic,” says Pitt.
“Most production sites are certified in accordance with ISO 9001 and 14001. In addition, all factories will be certified in accordance with OSHAS 18001.”
As a member of the United Nations Global Compact, Geberit has shown its commitment to the 10 principles of sustainability by placing it at its core from the earliest stages of new product development.
However, water consumption still largely drives sustainability principles in the sanitary fixtures industry. “This is achieved through dual flush high-efficiency toilets as well showers and mixer taps designed to offer a satisfying experience whilst minimising overall water consumption,” says Wilson about the products offered by Sanipex Group.
“The latest fittings and fixtures inject air into the water flow giving a full flow sensation while using less water. Touchless automatic taps in public washrooms contribute positively to overall water saving by flowing only when required by the user.”
WHAT THE DEVELOPERS DEMAND
According to Schoone, high-end hotel operators specify cast-iron bathtubs. “We’re also mostly providing built-in shower, basin faucets and wall-hung — usually square-shaped — rimless WCs to improve savings in the water bill,” he says. Elkadi concurs with the observation, adding: “The focus in the sanitary area is on a harmonious design, perfect hygiene, easy-care properties and quick cleaning.”
According to the latest sustainability report released by Grohe (above), its Grohe Sense and Grohe Sense Guard water security system launched in 2017 help in identifying undetected leakages, which cause the loss of 10% of private water consumption.
In case of a burst pipe, the water supply is switched off immediately. In turn, the proportion of basin fittings with the water-saving EcoJoy technology has increased to approximately 70%, up from 38% in 2014. Since their launch in 2013, they helped save about 2.35mn hectolitres of water — which is equivalent to almost five times the amount of water in Lake Constance.
As part of its sustainability strategy, Grohe is working on implementing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. These include, for example, the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation (goal 6), the support of sustainable consumption and production patterns (goal 12) and the development of measures to fight climate change (goal 13).
The common goal is a net zero environmental impact: By 2030, the positive environmental contribution of Lixil (Grohe's parent company) products and services will exceed the environmental impact of all of the group's business processes.
"We are firmly convinced that sustainability and efficiency are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, an organisation's future viability and economic success largely depend on its sustainability,” says Thomas Fuhr, Grohe's executive director of operations.
On the other hand, Hansgrohe (above) has launched a range of taps and showers which bring together fucntionality, comfort and design for hotel guestrooms.
“In developing new products, our main focus is always on customer experience, performance and ease-of-use. A great shower experience is key to making a guest’s hotel stay a success. In fact, the shower is one of the most important amenities in a hotel room,” says Jay Phillips, director of sales, global projects at the Hansgrohe Group.
Especially for business travellers, it is important to feel at least as comfortable in their hotel room as they would at home. Apart from a good quality, comfortable good bed, bathrooms are one of the most important spaces within a guestroom which visitors pay particular attention to. For instance, the shower area should have both a fixed overhead shower and a flexible hand shower, allowing guests to select the type of shower best suited to their needs. Hansgrohe offers 15 different jet types in its portfolio.