Sustainable bathroom concepts.

Guest article by Thomas Edelmann.

AXOR Bathroom Discussion at the ISH

Use & function of the bathroom in the future.

The AXOR Talk "Bathroom sharing concepts and universal design: what will bathrooms in shared urban living spaces look like in future?" opened up a creative, political and social tableau. The discussion focused on alternative lifestyle forms and their structural design, the shared use of bathrooms and "demographic alignment" of the housing stock.

Taking part in the discussion were the architect Bernhard Franken from Frankfurt, Thomas Bade, who runs the Institute for Universal Design in Munich and Stadthagen, and Fabian Kinzler, responsible for Housing & Care at AXOR/hansgrohe, therefore for customers from the housing industry and operators of care facilities.

Professor Franken, architect from Frankfurt.

Types of community

The debate dealt with the “demographic alignment” of housing, of alternative housing models, for instance sharing concepts, where rooms are shared. Aside from innovative hotel and office concepts, would this also work in the bathroom?

Architect Franken, whose office specialises “in using space to tell stories”, talked about projects that focus on sharing space. “No bathroom ever featured”, he said.

The focus is on the spatial scenario.

"The future no longer lies in the product, but in the spatial scenario", asserted Thomas Bade from the Institute for Universal Design. Reluctance to tackle the issue of demographic change have now given way to economic considerations. The challenges lie not in constructing new housing that is, wherever possible, wheelchair-accessible, but in the existing housing stock. Of this, 2.5 million residential units need to be made "demographically aligned". The housing industry alone estimates around 15,000 euros per residential unit, with the majority of funds earmarked for the bathroom.

Thomas Bade from the Universal Design Institute.
Fabian Kinzler, Project Business Team Leader.

The right products for different users.

For Fabian Kinzler, who has detailed knowledge of this project business as team leader for AXOR/hansgrohe, however, the spatial scenario which Bade mentioned requires the right products, which are appropriate for a wide range of user groups.

Multiple actualities

While architect Franken is interested in experiments that overturn the standards; in getting rid of existing housing limitations in order to create more space for shared areas and putting long-term stay, boarding or sharing concepts to the test, Bade and Kinzler discussed the expectations of the housing industry.

Bade anticipates something tantamount to economically-driven, forced bathroom sharing, based on the model of special care bathrooms. Design is essential in order to enable people to remain active in their own homes for as long as possible.

Kinzler stated that when it comes to current building projects there is a greater focus on standardisation “than the end user might want.”

Kinzler contradicts expectations regarding shared bathrooms: Nowadays, anyone building tiny student apartments and micro-apartments equips them with compact bathrooms. "Shared bathrooms reduce rentability". In residential nursing care, en-suite bathrooms would become increasingly compulsory.

The world’s a hotel?

Franken sees the penchant for standardisation as a “reflex of the fearful”. He cites the hybridisation of hotel and housing formats. Rather than the standardisation of products and spatial requirements, he would like to see flexible processes.

Similar to those in the office sector, where permanent renting of large surface areas is being replaced by new hotel-style concepts. These require more flexible creative solutions, which will transform the housing market. Landlords would have to also become operators, continually catering to the modification requests of users.

The world’s a hotel? Bade and Kinzler expressed doubts with regard to users and the housing sector. It’s important to define high furnishing standards, whose usability can be continually adapted to changing expectations.