How much influence can a space as small as a washroom have? After all, clients don’t come to your office to visit the restroom, they come to seal a deal. So why should landlords and tenants care about the quality of such an insignificant space? Because it is everything but insignificant.
When a potential prospect visits your business, the washroom may well be the first space they discover after the reception area. So why should clients feel respected if your washroom is neglected?
Often overlooked, commercial washrooms are increasingly becoming a benchmark for offices. Designed to create a positive first impression and reflect the values of the company, they are a valuable marketing asset for landlords and developers. “The world is full of people who’ll judge how good a place is by the toilet” says Argent’s Phil Harrison for the RIBA. In order to do business, developers have to understand how influential commercial washrooms are.
Washrooms in the Leadenhall Building, by RSHP. Credit: Paul Raftery.
Inside RSHP’s Leadenhall Building, otherwise known as “The Cheesegrater”, everything has been thought-out, right down to the bespoke, cheesegrater-shaped basins in the washroom. The latter also feature RSHP trademark cadmium yellow steelwork, a finish which, coupled with Domus porcelain tiles on the floor and bespoke iGuzzini shades, helps create a high-specification space.
Specifying prestige materials and finishes in your washroom can not only increase the marketability of the overall space but also help sublimate the image of a cold, corporate restroom. Such materials include laminated glass, natural stones such as granite, marble or Corian, stainless or textured steel, cast acrylic and even unusual wood veneers for a warmer look. “Washrooms are becoming a key expression of the building aesthetic” says RIBA journalist Pamela Buxton. As such, a washroom which boasts higher-quality materials will stand for the value and potential of a business.
In the heart of Mayfair, at 54 Brooks Mews, the award for most striking space would undoubtedly go to the washroom. According to developers Enstar Capital, the 6,000 square foot space is London’s most expensive office space and the luxurious washrooms could well be the reason why.
Gold-plated mosaics and marble in London's most expensive office, by Einstar Capital. Photo source.
Lined in a floor-to-ceiling, gold-plated mosaic, the washroom and toilets are more reminiscent of a five-star hotel than an executive office washroom. The mirrored washbasins with integrated water, soap and hand-drying facilities also feature iconic logos designed to echo the luxurious atmosphere of Milan’s Armani Hotel. “People spend a third of their lives at work, so this is why we have fitted these premises out to a luxury-residential finish” says Enstar Capital’s Simon Lyons.
As expectations are rising, new trends are emerging within the office sector. Are superloos becoming an alternative to traditional commercial washrooms? Reminiscent of a superhero name, superloos have their own special powers. These space-saving, single units, complete with a toilet, vanity and washbasin offer a way to increase rentable space while also saving on the cost of separate male and female facilities.
What image do superloos convey of a company and how can businesses profit from this trend? Should all commercial washrooms be unisex or are conventional layouts more functional? Are superloos beginning to change our perceptions of commercial washrooms as we know them?
"Feedback is really mixed on whether people prefer a superloo or a more conventional arrangement. I do think that women in particular want loos badged male or female," says Argent’s Phil Harrison.
Can superloos help developers increase the value of an office? The potential cannot be overlooked but the question remains open for debate...
In my experience, if you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, it’s modern architecture. Nancy Bank-Smith