Few understand the power—and the challenge—of a good idea better than an architect. The act of advancing the form and function of wall systems, HVAC systems, glazing, coating, lighting, or any one of dozens of building material categories is part of the design imperative. The nice part is, differentiation through innovation can be a decisive edge in winning new commissions and growing the practice.

What should you consider as you innovate? What lessons can you draw from the experience of others? For example, what can a humble touchless bathroom faucet teach you about the art and science of innovation? How did one manufacturer disrupt a commodity product class through inspired design and strict adherence to sustainability principles?

Consider EcoPower bathroom faucets and flush valves from TOTO, a leading maker of residential and commercial bathroom products. Here are seven factors that have helped guide the company to prominence in a crowded U.S. market:

  1. Breakthrough Engineering. Touchless bathroom faucets and toilet flush valves use a battery-operated motion sensor to start and stop water flow. But what if there was a way to create a self-powering motion sensor. No battery. No wiring. Just an ingenious micro turbine (think Hoover Dam in extreme miniature) that generates a perfectly scaled hydroelectric charge by … you guessed it … the water running through the device.
  2. Measurable Performance. A self-sustaining bathroom faucet eliminates the purchase, storage, replacement, and responsible disposal of the battery, freeing maintenance personnel for other duties. Those persistent material and labor savings are easily documented and payback determined.
  3. Challenge-Friendly. A killer idea should welcome all challengers. Numerous head-to-head “bake offs” against conventional touchless bathroom systems repeatedly establishes dependable performance along with enthusiastic maintenance staff support (no more black plastic bags draped over broken fixtures).
  4. Blue-Chip Validation. Today Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Chick-fil-A, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and many other respected organizations have adopted TOTO self-powering bathroom technology to improve operational performance.
  5. Product Transparency. SM Transparency Report detail in prescriptive fashion the materials required to manufacture the touchless, self-powering bathroom faucet and toilet flush valve in accordance with LEED v4 guidelines. Cradle to Grave Life Cycle Assessment is performed by an authoritative third-party reveals environmental impact. The company has earned designation as a Water Efficiency Leader by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among many other environmental leadership distinctions.
  6. U.S.A. Sourcing. U.S. manufacturing operations are based in a state-of-the-art production facility in Atlanta, Ga., substantially lowering transportation costs while maintaining product quality that exceeds the company’s offshore manufacturing operations.
  7. Global Vision. A global environmental vision statement guides the business in preventing global warming, water conservation, clean air and water, natural resource conservation, and supporting local communities’ ecological initiatives.

To understand the value of the seven steps, keep in mind TOTO entered the U.S. in 1990, just 27 years ago. By linking innovative design and production practices with sustainability, the company has been able to achieve a leading position among bathroom product manufacturers. As you consider ways to apply innovation practices across your business, keep in mind the lessons of the little turbine that could. Visit here to learn more.