As universities lead the charge for increased restroom privacy, owners of office buildings that cater to a younger workforce are following suit. This trend poses design challenges that demand practical, aesthetic solutions.

“The top complaint about toilet partitions has always been the gap,” says Roumany Samhakson, marketing category manager for partitions at Bobrick Washroom Equipment, Inc. “The gap,” which Samhakson and other industry experts often reference, is the space between partition doors and stiles, which can create undesirable sightlines into toilet compartments.

Samhakson notes that gap-free toilet partition systems—including Bobrick’s SierraSeries® partitions, DuraLineSeries® phenolic partitions and new high-end PRIVADA partitions—are drawing increased interest for renovations and new construction, as they eliminate gaps between doors and stiles at the front of the stalls as well as between the stalls at the dividing panels. They also create clean, flush architectural styling across a series of panels.

Privacy partitions also can save on costs, labor and real estate compared to alternative solutions. Full wall construction is one problematic response to the privacy trend, says Dave Edwards, president of R.E. Edwards & Associates, a California-based architectural sales representative for Division 8 and 10 construction.

“Full walls require a lot of additional construction, with studs, drywall, tile and or paint and more expensive hardware,” says Edwards. “Meanwhile, toilet partition panels offer the same privacy at lower cost.”

Full wall construction may also involve realigning fire sprinkler plumbing, and duct work for ventilation, adds Edwards. “This can add anywhere between two days and three weeks onto a project’s timeline,” he says.

Full walls also can increase the restroom’s footprint as compromises are made to maintain ADA compliance. Since codes specify a minimum number of toilets based on building size and occupancy, switching from a 1/2”-thick partition to a 4”- to 5”-thick wall can take real estate away from valuable office space or reduce the number of available stalls.

Recently, Bobrick and R.E. Edwards have collaborated on a number of privacy enhancement projects for universities. San Jose State University recently installed Bobrick DuraLineSeries® (2082G.67P) partitions with 90”-tall panels and 80”-tall gapless doors. Beyond the privacy issue, universities are gravitating toward gender-neutral restrooms to allow for more usable square footage and reduce janitorial workload.

As part of the nationwide push for gender inclusive facilities in university-owned buildings, many officials are searching for ways to increase privacy in existing and new partition installations. While architects and design and construction teams evaluate their options, Bobrick and architectural sales rep agencies like R.E. Edwards stand by to assist and provide solutions.

“When looking to enhance restroom privacy or the overall user experience, partitions are a great place to start,” says Samhakson. “Combine practical implementation with a selection of economical and high-end design options, and you get a modern solution to a true 21st century design challenge.”

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