During a pandemic, people may not be using showers in public places and may shirk from the thought of doing so. However, as the world rethinks, rebuilds and reopens for a post-COVID-19 era, there will be a time when commercial facilities — and showers — are back to business as almost usual.
As facilities prepare to get commercial showers ready for the “new normal” — be it schools, colleges, fitness centers, spas, pools, workplaces, etc. — there are a number of considerations to keep top of mind. While each shower application has its own priorities and factors to consider, right now, all eyes are on cleanliness and hygiene, user privacy and distancing, ADA compliance and improved maintenance, among other things like aesthetics and water savings.
When looking at today’s commercial shower systems, it’s plain to see that a shower is no longer just a shower. There are now versatile shower solutions for virtually every priority and every application. For example, guests at an upscale hotel spa have different expectations for showers than high school students, and the requirements for these different types of facilities are vastly different.
To address any and all shower room design needs, there are a variety of commercial grade, long-lasting individual and multi-user shower stations for public facilities that come in a variety of configurations including built-in, wall-mounted, in-wall mounted, column and panel shower systems.
The following are considerations in choosing solutions for shower rooms.
Improving hygiene in showers
Maintaining and keeping shower areas clean and sanitized is of utmost importance, particularly in the age of coronavirus. Regular cleaning and sanitization of all surfaces — especially high-touch areas like knobs, buttons and levers — with EPA-approved cleaners and disinfectants should be part of cleaning protocol in showers.
There are also a number of building products and materials and design strategies that can be employed to help showers stay more hygienic:
- Choose products and accessories with antimicrobial protection to inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus. Products such as grab bars, shower seats, shower curtains, door pulls and latches can help guard against harmful microbes;
- Copper is antimicrobial and is being used as a coating on shower room and restroom surfaces, such as grab bars. While more expensive, copper material has the ability to kill a wide range of microbes, generally within two hours;
- For benches, lockers and partitions, select solid plastic high density polyethylene (HDPE) material, which is resistant to moisture and bacteria, making them ideal for shower rooms;
- Look for showers made from chrome-plated brass or other durable material;
- If using shower curtains, choose antimicrobial materials and replace regularly;
- Install non-porous and seamless solid surface shower pans rather than hard to clean tile with grout lines than can attract dirt and germs;
- If using tiles, use larger ones for less grout area on floors; choose a darker epoxy grout; clean and reseal often to maintain a fresh appearance;
- Slope the shower floor to help water easily funnel into drain to eliminate standing water in the shower; and
- Overall air quality, proper ventilation and air filtration in shower room and restroom spaces are essential.
Certainly, the spread of coronavirus has driven up demand for touch-free products throughout facilities as people are going out of their way to avoid hand contact with germy surfaces. To that point, sensor-activated touch-free shower systems are becoming more widely available. These touchless models can more expensive upfront due to the electrical components and installation, but depending on the application, it may be highly appropriate — and even expected by clientele.
Privacy and proximity solutions
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, a big challenge for some public facilities was getting people to shower in a public setting. The answer, particularly for some facilities such as a fitness center, is to offer users more privacy, amenities that strike a balance between luxury and hygiene and directives/notifications for using every other shower, limiting the number of people in shower areas at one time, etc., to promote social distancing.
Above and beyond cleanliness and germ mitigation measures, it’s important to consider the aesthetics for a fresh, hygienic and appealing look to welcome visitors. After all, showers are used for delivering a healthy cleansing experience.
Rather than molded units, for example, showers with ceramic or glass tile adorned shower stalls with invisible glass partitions are common. “Rain” showerheads, multiple body sprays and hand-held personal sprayers also elevate the shower room experience.
With privacy becoming increasingly important in today’s world, the option of adding partitions and curtains to provide the user with privacy without building walls and adding to the overall construction costs is becoming more frequently specified by architects and engineers.
“Modesty modules” can also be a cost-effective solution for larger shower areas. Similar to toilet partitions, modesty modules are low-profile stainless steel partitions grouped around column showers and typically include a stall for showering and another area for dressing, separated by a curtain. The dressing stall can include a teakwood seat and robe hooks.
ADA compliance and barrier-free
To ensure showers are accessible to all users, ADA-compliant showers should be considered, particularly if your facility caters to aging Americans or individuals with physical disabilities who may need extra stability and room to maneuver. Also, building owners and specifiers are requiring more showers to be barrier-free, which means it meets most ADA requirements but is not fully ADA compliant.
Many types of shower configurations are available for maximizing shower space without compromising aesthetic value, while also being cognizant of any special accommodations, including ADA code requirements. Look for complete easy-to-install packages that include a hand-held shower with flexible hose, diverter valve, shower valve, grab bar and barrier-free seat.
It is important to check local codes for any special requirements prior to installation, and obtain specific rules from ADA regarding mounting heights, clearances and ease of operation.
Planning and installing more hygienic and efficient shower fixtures with durable accessories may add costs upfront, but their long-term advantages will save money over the building’s life cycle. In addition to cost savings, facilities will benefit from a more hygienic shower environment, less maintenance, a welcoming barrier-free space and increased privacy. Those are advantages that make a positive impact on everyone — from owners and management to occupants, customers and visitors — as society gears up for post-pandemic facilities.