Public Toilet Design Guidelines

Draft Design Guidelines for Public Toilets

The Paruresis Trust

The Trust concerns itself with men and women who suffer from a specific social anxiety known as Paruresis, or Shy Bladder Syndrome. These individuals find it very difficult, or impossible, to relieve themselves in the presence, actual or perceived, of other people. This has a devastating effect on their lives, severely restricting mobility, job opportunities, social life, and relationships. The individual generally feels very ashamed and humiliated by his/her handicap, and will go to great lengths to conceal their problem; they certainly do not divulge it to anyone.

In its work, the Trust encourages sufferers to disclose to family and friends that they trust, on a “need to know” basis. As a result of feedback from this process, it had been surprised by the extent to which the non-affected population admits to feelings of discomfort or unease in public toilets; e.g. as many as 1 in 3 men. The triggers for these feelings are due to things that could easily be improved, often at no cost.

Hence this document, which addresses how improving the layout of public toilets would help the general population, improve throughput and incidentally make life easier for those with the condition, as they seek to recover from it.

1 Purpose of this Document

To establish a set of guidelines on the layout of public toilets

The term “Public toilet” to mean any toilet open to the public, or paying public, in public spaces or commercial properties, for use by more than one person.

To encompass the best advice and experience of users, equipment providers and the British Toilet Association (BTA)

The eventual aim being for these guidelines:

  • to be promoted by the BTA, and by equipment providers
  • to be addressed to architects etc
  • to be incorporated in a British Standard.

Note it is not the intention to introduce proposals that are uneconomic or impractical; the aim is to show that careful consideration of layout can be done within reasonable budgets. The one exception is the provision of an adequate number of female toilets.

The groundwork has already been laid by the various government guidelines and standards to point school planners in the right direction. A good resource for this can be found at QA Education. The aim should be to take what is considered to be necessary for children in schools and to apply similar standards in public facilities.

2 Where Does the Need for Privacy Come From

2.1 The Affected Population

Discomfort in a public toilet caused by the public nature of the premises is a phenomenon acknowledged only anecdotally and even then with reservation. This discomfort exists as a range from no discomfort at all at one end, to total inhibition at the other.

At one end of the scale are men and women who see voiding as a purely conscious action: it is an action that they can do without hesitation however crowded or public the situation. They cannot understand how anybody can have any difficulty voiding.

At the other end of the spectrum are individuals of both sexes who are severely inhibited in public situations to the extent of being unable to relieve themselves; there are two conditions: one is known as paruresis, or shy bladder syndrome; the other is parcopresis, or shy bowel syndrome. These are recognised as social anxiety conditions which result in a subconscious switching off of the voiding mechanism: however much the individual wishes to void, the body does not respond. Currently psychotherapy is advised: cognitive behaviour therapy being the current recommendation.

This document does not seek to address either of these two populations, though the proposals would significantly help those affected mildly by shy bladder and or shy bowel syndrome.

However in between these two extremes lies a population which is variously affected. This is something that is rarely talked about. This is backed up by psychological research; also the Trust has been in receipt of a wide range of anecdotal evidence. From now on this document refers only to men and women in this mid-range. The current cramped or inappropriate layouts of public toilets result in public discomfort, resulting in a reduction in throughput, which becomes negatively reinforcing i.e. if individuals take longer to relieve themselves, this increases the crowding, so causing individuals to take even longer.

2.2 Men and Women in Cubicles
2.3 Men at Urinals
2.4 Psychological Research
2.5 The Urinal Quiz
2.6 Big Issue Cartoon
2.7 Conclusion

3 Principles and Rationale for the Design and Layout of Public Toilets

3.1 Principles and Rationale - All Toilets

Use ambient lighting that is soft in tone.

To eliminate total silence, provide where feasible a sound track, which can be relevant to the premises. The default could be the sound of waves. 

3.2 Principles and Rationale – Cubicles for Both Men and Women
3.3 Principles and Rationale - Urinals
3.4 Principles and Rationale – Layout of Male Toilets
3.5 Small Two-Urinal Installations
3.6 Cubicle Seats in Male Toilets
3.7 Female Toilets
3.8 Variable Gender Ratios

4 Example Layouts

We thought it might be of interest to show an example of an existing well designed toilet (courtesy of J D Wetherspoon).

Good public toilet design information.

Shy Bladder and Good Public Toilet Design Guidelines

On entering the room, the urinals are not visible.

Shy Bladder and Good Public Toilet Design Guidelines

Walk past the 5 cubicles on the left, which have walls down to the floor, and minimal gaps below doors.

Shy Bladder and Good Public Toilet Design Guidelines

Then the urinals are seen on the left, each separated by a stylish divider from shoulder-height to floor. The urinals are spaced out so men are not elbow to elbow.

Shy Bladder and Good Public Toilet Design Guidelines

A lengthwise seven foot high screen separates the urinal area on the left from the basin area on the right. Hence when standing at a urinal there is no-one behind you.

Shy Bladder and Good Public Toilet Design Guidelines

When using the basins the urinals are out of view.

Maximum privacy, in a stylish setting.

5 Costings

To be provided.

 

6 Appendix A - Improved Spacing of Urinals

A

B

C

D

 

   

Column A is the number of installed urinals.

 

Column B shows the space in millimeters required at a 600mm spacing. 

 

Column C shows the number of urinals that are used if men avoid standing next to each other because the urinals are too closely spaced

 

Column D shows the number of urinals that can be fitted into the total space at an 800mm spacing. At this spacing, with shoulder to knee privacy screens, the assumption is that  every urinal is likely to be used.

 

In every case the wider spacing with privacy screens results in more usage. e.g. 12 urinals at 600mm spacing take up 7200mm (column B), but only 6 are used. Column D shows that 9 urinals and be fitted into 7200mm at 800mm spacing, with a greater likelihood that they would all be used.

 

600

 

800

1

600

1

1

2

1200

1

1

3

1800

2

2

4

2400

2

3

5

3000

3

3

6

3600

3

4

7

4200

4

5

8

4800

4

6

9

5400

5

6

10

6000

5

7

11

6600

6

8

12

7200

6

9

13

7800

7

9

14

8400

7

10

15

9000

8

11

16

9600

8

12

7 Appendix B – Big Issue Cartoon

Big Issue Pee Shy Cartoon

Courtesy of Big Issue Magazine and of Paul Fitzgerald

8 Appendix C - Contributing Organisations

The UK Paruresis Trust

9 Bibliography

Government Guidance from QA Education

Middlemist, R. D., E.S. Knowles, and C.F. Matter. 1976. Personal space invasions in the lavatory: Suggestive evidence of arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 33:541-546.

http://gamescene.com/The_Urinal_Game.html

10 Document History

Location: BTA/Design guidelines.doc

v0.1 - 06.12.07        Initial draft

v0.2 - 21.12.07        revised initial draft

v0.3   26.07.08        minor amendments

v0.4   22.04.09        minor amendments

v0.5    23.11.17        updating

Copyright © 2017 United Kingdom Paruresis Trust. All Rights Reserved.
UK Charity Registration Number 1109541