Willow Tree Primary School were featured heavily in the National press recently after a school refurbishment redesigned all the toilets into unisex. Just to clarify this means all toilets are available to use for both boys and girls.
It is understood that in small offices and some uber trendy locations that the unisex concept works really well and this may seem like a great idea to architects or designers. However, in my experience, many such toilets, after a period of time, get reallocated to either male of female use.
Here are the top 5 reasons why unisex toilets fail -please feel free to comment.
- Males. Whether this be at a school or office, the male population tend to stand up when urinating. Most males can’t hit a urinal from 30cm so hitting a toilet bowl from 60cm is almost impossible. This is exacerbated if the toilet seat has not been put up. Needless to say men do not clean up after themselves: this will be tolerated for a short period before there is a revolution and signs go on the doors.
- Embarrassment. Female staff or pupils will avoid using toilets where there is even a miniscule risk of creating an opportunity to be the butt (apologies for the pun) of someone else’s cruel joke or sarcastic comment – phew ‘did you light a match?’
- Cleaning. The people tasked with cleaning the toilets will soon complain that they have much more cleaning to do – twice as many toilet bowls requiring special attention as before. There is a very strong environmental argument that says that keeping toilets separate sex reduces the amount of chemicals needed to maintain standards.
- Costs. Not only increased cleaning products but increased labour to keep the toilets clean. But another cost means that every toilet requires a sanitary disposal bin. By making all the toilets unisex you double your sanitary waste disposal costs.
- Community. Toilets are not all bad places. There can be opportunities to chat or say hello whilst washing hands. In these modern times men spend almost as much time in front of the mirror grooming themselves as women do. These communal activities can be positive and should be encouraged.
So there are my top 5 reasons. With regard to schools which is where we started, call me a cynic but these newer schools being built, especially those through PPI or with 20 year management contracts, it may well be in the management company’s interests to have unisex toilets with twice the cleaning and twice the costs?