This message has been cross posted to the following Discussion Forums: Center for Value of Design and Committee on Design .
Approximately 7% of the population are unable to urinate in the presence of others. This condition is known as paruresis.* In buildings designed with multi person restrooms, paruresis sufferers are unable to urinate when others are in the same room or can hear this. Toilet/urinal partitions or background music often provide little or no relief. This environment damages the quality of life people should expect when functioning in society.
Private restrooms eliminate circulation square footage (the square footage in multi person restrooms for public movement within the space) and thus can cost about the same or less to build as multi person styles. Private restroom doors typically open onto a corridor without need for this circulation square footage.
Design private restrooms with the minimum amount of space. Even ones that are accessible only require wheelchair access into the room, wheelchair rotation and access to the sink. A minimum 8' long by 5' wide could suffice for either accessible or standard private restrooms.
Walk into any multi person restroom and count up the number of fixtures and figure this 8' X 5' private restroom for each fixture. Compare this to the size of the multi person restroom with all of its circulation square footage. For large multi person restrooms, square footage savings can be as high as 50% by designing private restrooms instead.
Cluster private restrooms along a main corridor wall with self closing doors to maintain the aesthetic integrity of the space. Specify 1) visual occupied/unoccupied door locks allowing people to see which restrooms are available; 2) flush tanks instead of flush valves that can provide sound as needed; 3) an exhaust fan in each room operated by a wall switch (when possible in low rise buildings) that provide sound as needed.
Architects, like many people may be unwilling to discuss this topic. Is an architect going to discuss with coworkers not to design multi person restrooms due to around 17 million Americans not being able to urinate in them?
Yet, for people suffering with paruresis, the buildings architects continue to design are useless. This can affect a person's ability to keep a job, go to a restaurant, movie, mall, etc. This may be the cause for agoraphobia for many and look at the cost to society. Continuing to design multi person restrooms is a major mistake. Design private restrooms only.
Private restrooms can make the building foot print smaller meaning costing less to build with fewer property taxes for the owner and less ventilation though out the life cycle of the building. Also, consider the advantages to society designing buildings that increase productivity and enjoyment while attracting people to the work environment and to the market place. These are qualities that architects should bring to society anyway.**
Seven percent of Americans is the population of New York State. Paruresis is extremely common. Now that you understand why, design private restrooms in all future projects.
* www.paruresis.org and
** The American's With Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 302. PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BY PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS: "(a) General Rule.--No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation." ADA also states that a person is "considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities."