Transcript for presentation:

Safety vs Aesthetics - Universal Design Solves the Quandary


Barbara Mueller


A4. Renovation and home modification

Date and Time

2014-06-16, 14:25 - 15:05


MA 6

Presentation PDF

Long oral presentation

Transcript of the talk

Hello, everybody. My name is Barb Mueller, from the United States. I live in Houston, Texas, area, if anybody is familiar with Houston, Texas.
I’m a kitchen and bath designer, as well as an adjunct professor, and I’m very interested in bringing to you some ideas that, as designers, architects, remodelers, you can hopefully utilize in your designing and remodeling of bathrooms.
People think about universal design in different ways. Some think that safety in the bathroom has to look institutional and ugly.
Did I do it wrong?
Okay, there we go.
However, it is possible to design a bathroom that is functional, safe, and healthy with Universal Design products and features. So that’s one thing that is a big misconception in the United States, is that if you have a safe bathroom, that it’s going to look like a hospital room. And that’s what we do to get away from that, is by using Universal Design products and features that are gorgeous.
There are ways to achieve this using the actual principles and goals of Universal Design. The objective is to design bathrooms that are aesthetically pleasing and functional as well as less hazardous, no matter the size, ability or age of the user.
The statistics of injuries in bathrooms are really alarming, with falls causing 81% of the injuries in persons over age 15. We’ll be looking at applying the Universal Design principles and goals that will enhance the safety of the differing elements of the bath for the use of current and functional Universal Design features and products.
Different areas of concern regarding poorly designed elements in the bathroom and the hazards they can present are identified, and I’m going to be talking about some of the solutions that we can use.
All of these suggestions are just guidelines that designers and architects can incorporate into the space in accordance with the client’s wishes and with their budget. And that’s practically one of the most important considerations, is the client’s budget, because a lot of times people are thinking that, well, this might cost a lot, but a lot of times it will won’t cost a lot — it won’t cost a lot if you’re in the midst of building or remodeling anyway.
Okay. There are many — there are several principles and goals of Universal Design that have more to do with safety than some of the other principles and goals. So we’re going to be looking at those. So flexibility and use, the simple and easy to use, minimizing hazards, requiring low physical effort and all the rest of the ones listed here.
Flexibility and use has to do with the range of the users. So whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, everyone will be able to use the sinks no matter what, especially with lever handles and single mount faucets. With simple and easy to use features everybody can use the space regardless of the knowledge or previous experience they’ve had in other bathrooms. Minimizing hazards, such as tripping or slipping perils should be the priority because of the primary objective making the client’s bathroom safe. And that’s your duty as a designer or as an architect, to give a good, safe climate in your bathroom to your client.
Also, the design should require low physical effort, which is more important for those with arthritis, or those who have had a stroke. Using single mount lever plumbing is easier for those who do not have a lot of strength and for people with a broken arm, say, or a broken leg, who have trouble reaching across the sink to a faucet on the other side. Size and space for approach and use are necessary for people in wheelchairs, on crutches, push walkers, to use at a vanity or toilet in bathroom. If the user is an oversized person, they want to have enough space to use a bathroom, so that they’re not knocking into the sink, knocking into the toilet on their way throughout the bathroom.
For instance, getting through the walkway of the bathroom without having the vanity and toilet too close to you, similarly body fit ensures that all sizes of bodies will be able to function in that space. If the designer is working with a very short person, they need to think about the reach of their client’s arms, which is very important to consider when designing the bathroom bar. They do not want them to be overreaching or stretching and causing problems for their backs and arms.
Comfort is a consideration. So it’s necessary to make sure that they have — that they feel secure in the space. If a user is rushing through the bathroom measurement because they are too cold or too hot, then this could cause an accident. With wellness, consider potential health risks such as mold and mildew growth. So make sure that the areas are well ventilated with good ventilation systems. And many of these Universal Design principles and goals were formulated by Ron Mace, Ed Steinfield and others.
Actually, let’s go back here.
The potential for serious accidents in the bathroom is considerable. The United States Centers for Disease Control provides statistics available regarding injuries in the home. In the United States almost 250,000 people fall in their bathrooms every year. That’s a lot of people falling. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury. In over 60% of the injury occur in or around the tub and shower. These figures are alarming. Most people are not even aware of it. I mean, they just don’t even realize the immensity of the problem.
Falls can become a vicious cycle. The fear of falling is hard to break because people who develop a fear of falling have maybe already fallen before. So they decide they don’t want to do as much anymore. This correlates with what you were talking about earlier as well. Therefore they become less physically active. They reduce their activities. And they don’t stay as physically fit as they were. Which in turn then increases their risk of falling. So the CDC says that many of the injuries in the bath might be decreased through modifying the environment. And the Universal Design is one of the ways to modify the environment.
Okay, let’s talk about client requirements. Consider the client’s desires as well when you’re renovating a bathroom or remodeling a bathroom. They may want a really cold bathroom. It has all the latest styles and features and finishes. Others may want a spa type of finish look, but they also want good storage and they want to stay within their budget. So think about how to fulfill all of these requirements and wishes for them and which Universal Design features can fulfill them.
A lot of clients bring photos and drawings from the media to their designer or their architect. Think about how to utilize and incorporate these designs with Universal Design. So it will be healthy, safe, functional, and most important, beautiful.
Think about alternative features to suggest and utilize other words and phrases that would appeal to your client like, this is a spa shower, or this is a European shower. In the United States people like that. European shower. Because it sounds exotic.
Say this space is light and airy. People like floating vanities as well. Educate the client about Universal Design and how it will benefit them. That’s the main thing. You can’t sell them the features. You have to sell them the benefits. So how will it make things in their life more convenient for them?
Some of the benefits ensure that a room is easier to room and safer to use.
You also need to explain to them what Universal Design is. A lot of people don’t know what it is. They have no idea. And you have to think about what guests are, when they’re coming to your home, how will they be able to function well in the space? If a loved one has had a hip or a knee or a foot surgery, if a patient is recovering at home or just wants to age in their home independently, Universal Design features and products will be of great benefit to them. Unfortunately, many people find out too late after a traumatic injury how much Universal Design could have benefited them in their bathroom.
Many bathrooms have several features which are characteristic of Universal Design, such as leg room for a seated or standing user being able to access the vanities which have knee holes. The one on the left, it has really nice area for anybody to use. You can pull a chair up to there. But it doesn’t look like it’s made for wheelchair access. There can be eye level lighting or a single mount lever faucet on the side so someone does not have to reach across, such as a short person or a person who has had a stroke and only able to use one side of the body. A child can use a step stool to work the lever faucets on the sinks. Also there are faucets on the market now that are motion activated. And we will help keep the germs from spreading, as well as assist those with weak hands. Hanging vanities have the advantage of being able to hung at any height, too, for a tall person like me or a short person. In the shower, position a bench with a hand held shower with an easy reach for the elderly, for pregnant women, for persons with broken limbs, persons recuperating or a paralyzed persons to easily transfer from a wheelchair. So when I design a bathroom, I always put a bench into a shower with its own hand held shower with its own controls. That way that person the control that shower area.
Recessed lights and large windows give plenty of light for those with lower aging vision. So also make sure that there’s wide enough aisle for everybody to use in a bathroom. Some areas might have a few shortcomings. Like these two here that I’m showing you, these mirrors should be a little bit lower. The pipes should be covered that are under the sinks in case somebody doesn’t want to burn their knees on the pipes underneath. The tiltable mirrors could be used. And the lighting should be at eye level or slightly above, so you don’t get stark shadows.
Showers are an area where a majority of accidents happen. So good lighting really helps so that somebody can see what they’re doing in the shower. But lessens the chances of falling, slipping and dropping items. Not having a trip hazard at the shower threshold is beneficial so that a wheelchair or walker user or even an elder would not worry about tripping when they get into the shower.
So you can see on this shower there’s a place where the door opens and somebody can just walk right in, roll right in, and there’s no problem tripping. In the United States, unfortunately, there’s a habit of showers being built with thresholds. In Europe, it’s really nice, every time I come to Europe, all the showers have no thresholds. And I wish that everybody from the United States who builds any showers could come over here and see how easily it’s done. In the United States, unfortunately, there’s a real attitude of builders of why reinvent the wheel, the way we’ve been doing it is fine, we’ve been doing it for years this way and they don’t want to change the way they do things.
A bench is really advantageous for those who are weak, who are transferring from a wheelchair, who have a broken leg, who have had a hip replacement or a foot operation. All these people would benefit from having Universal Design features in their shower. A hand held shower at a low enough level for seated user not to be forced to stand to reach it. So I’ve seen a lot of showers that have a bench, but then the hand held shower is way up here, so you have to stand up to reach it and that could cause the reacher to slip when they’re standing up to try and reach it. So it should be within accessible range. And that way they can be stable when they’re reaching it. It also decreases the chance — the shampoo niche close at hand is helpful so they don’t have to reach to the floor or overhead shower to get what they need. If you see the shower bench on the left, it has open space underneath the bench as well, which is really nice, because when people put their legs underneath the bench, they’re a little more stable when they stand up. If you try to put your feet straight down and stand straight up, you need a lot more thigh strength to stand up.
According to the CDC, the bathtub is directly responsible for over 40% of the bathroom injuries. So you need to make the tub area as safe as possible. Tubs should have a wide rim on which to sit and lift the legs over and pivot. So a lot of times people directly approach a bathtub and try to lift their leg over, a lot of times their toes can catch on the rim and that’s when you slip and fall into the tub.
So it also, the wider rim makes it easier to transfer from the wheelchair. If you look at these tubs that are popular now — I don’t know how popular they are in Europe, but they’re very popular in the United States, they have very thin rims. I think they are very dangerous. Because there’s no place to sit and really pivot. If you sit and pivot, it hurts.
So it really is not safe, but they look really cool, you know, so people want them.
Another safety concern is positioning tub on a platform with steps leading up. This is potentially hazardous. Because they’re so slippery when wet.
Another trend that we’re seeing in the United States is bathtubbing put inside a glass enclosure. I don’t know how popular that is Lear, but it’s becoming very — popular that is here, but it’s becoming popular in the United States. So putting together the tub in a wet area, they have no place then to sit when in the shower. There’s no bench. And then a lot of these have that new thin rim tub, so there’s no place to sit and pivot into the tub. So it’s a hazardous area to step into the tub on a wet surface when you’re standing on the wet shower floor to try to put your leg over into the tub. It’s just an accident waiting to happen.
So a grab bar is helpful near the bench and if you see this tub on the right-hand side, inside the shower enclosure there’s a grab bar. So it doesn’t look bad. It doesn’t look institutional. It just looks like it should be there along with the handheld shower.
Because nowadays they’re aesthetically pleasing and functional at the same time.
Grab bars can double as towel bars. Soap dishes. Toilet paper holders. They can go around shower temperature controls. They’re aesthetically pleasing and functional at the same time. So I have a lot of clients who don’t want to put in grab bars because they say that they just look like hospitals or they look like they’re for older people. Well, there’s a lot of grab bars out there that are really cool looking.
So great Universal Design bathrooms have a lot of open space and plenty of room in which to maneuver. The one on the right shows you, it does have some problems but it has a lot of turning space. And one way to create that turning space is to have no delineated shower enclosure area, where the whole bathroom floor becomes a wet area. Small tile in shower floor area is much less slippery because of the grout. If you have smaller tile, you have more grout, you have less chance of slipping. There is some limitations with the shower on the right. Can anybody guess what it is?
It’s a thin rim tub again. The shower on the left is when you have a small bathroom you can take advantage of the small bathroom even and have a wet area of having no shower delineation by having an enclosure.
The bathtub in a small secondary bathroom can be converted to a curbless shower with the whole room becoming a wet room for a tripless entry. Temperature control lever is near the entry. So when you reach in there — this client had a really tall son and so she wanted to take out the bathtub totally. So we just put in a shower enclosure and, if he wanted to sit in the tub — or sit in the shower at a later time, he was slightly handicapped, so he could therefore have his chair in there to wash if he wanted to. It’s not necessarily for a wheelchair. But you notice the controls are right near the entry. And there’s a grab bar there too.
Because that way when you turn on the water, you’re not going to have a whole bunch of frigid water striking you, which can cause people to jump and slip.
Comfort height toilets between 17 and 19-inches high. Actually, they’re about the same height as a regular chair or wheelchair. So it makes it much easier to transfer from a mobility aid or an elder with little thigh strength to sit. There are toilets that have motion activated lid and seat integrated air dryer, deodorizer, heated seat. There’s bells and whistles on toilets now. It makes it convenient and secure for persons with arthritis, broken limbs, neurological disorders, and weak limbs.
Wall hung toilets can be hung at any height as well. And the toilets help to forestall falls. A lot of elders don’t have the thigh strength to sit down, so they let their bodies fall.
Creating a space next to the toilet for easy transfer can be easily incorporated into the overall plan. So here it is. You can put it right next to the toilet inside the shower if you have limited space according to what your client wants to do in the room or not.
Here you have a shower that on the left is for a lift. But look how beautiful that looks. And here you have a transfer space next to the toilet.
Indoor air quality is of great importance for health and well-being, especially in the bathroom where there is so much moisture. A good heat vent and light fixture helps take the excessive moisture out of the air which can cause mold growth. I don’t know if that’s a problem here, but in the United States, there’s a lot of areas that have a lot of humidity, especially in Texas, where I’m from. It’s humid for eight months out of the year and it’s very wet humidity. I mean, in the bathroom, your bathroom stays wet a long time, your towels stay wet. So having these types of venting is very important for us.
And it also keeps light and space and adds heat. If you have a heater in the bathroom, for the cold months.
A moisture sensor switch, it can sense the rising condensation levels, so it automatically turns on the fan and keeps it on until the condensation is no longer a problem and the room dries. Mold can also cause damage to your home. We have a lot of mold problems in the United States as well. An electric towel dryer will help dry towels rapidly so the mold will not grow as quickly in the warmer climates. I don’t know if you’re aware of the mold problems in the United States where the mold actually grows in the walls. You can ruin a house, literally, just ruin a house.
Letting in the natural daylight makes it easier to do all of the daily evolutions of cleansing and grooming. Having layered lighting, natural lighting ambient lighting, task lighting, decorative lighting, is very important. It gives you the necessary amount of light for each task that you’re trying to do in the bathroom, especially for those with low vision.
People like to have natural light, natural daylight come in. Humans have an inherent need to be around nature. They like to have windows, so they can see the views. They need to be around nature. So it’s very beneficial to put lots of window area in a bathroom, so that people can see the plants around them, the views around them. So I like these bathrooms where they actually have — did I switch that?
Like here, in the shower itself, there’s a really tall long window. And then here in the shower on the right there’s a big window in the shower, and on the left there’s windows on either side of the vanity.
Glare is also a problem for older eyes. You want to make sure if you have really shiny surfaces in the bathroom, you don’t have too much of it. This picture on the left was overkill. The designer just went crazy with this marble. It’s too much glare, too much shininess. It’s on the floor, on the vanity, on the wainscoting. There’s a tile step-down from the shower. You see that even? It’s hard being in bathroom to see it.
That’s a potential trip hazard.
So on the right — I don’t know if you can see it on the slide, but the whole bathroom is smaller tiles. So there’s a lot more grout, so it helps to keep the whole floor less slippery.
Natural stone is a very shiny surface. So that can be dangerous when there’s water in there. I don’t recommend putting a shiny, smooth tile on a floor in a bathroom. If you’re going to use a natural stone, use a whole finish or a matte finish.
The United States skid resistant scale or the coefficient of friction is used to determine the degree of slippage on a tile surface. So while assessing different tile surfaces, wet and dry conditions, along with the speed of how the subject is moving or monitored, so using a tile with a COF, coefficient of .6 or greater that meets or exceeds general safety and health regulations will cut down on the slipping hazards in a bathroom. So in the United States, when you’re putting tile into a bathroom, you always try to look for the coefficient of friction and see what that number is to make sure you’re putting in safe flooring.
Storage functions best at the point of use. You don’t want the tiles way over there when you’re getting out of the shower over here.
It’s best where it’s accessible and right where it’s needed. A pull-out under the sink makes it easier to reach storage items. Replacing a linen closet with a pull-out gives more space to access. A lot of bathrooms now are replacing a linen closet that had a door with pull-outs like you see in the picture on the left.
A pull-out and toe kick at the vanity is perfect for small children to reach the sink without them climbing on the toilet or top of the vanity to reach the faucet. That’s just a really big potential accident waiting to happen with children. On the right, you see the tall cabinet next to the sink, that has a lot of accessibility for storage right there at the sink where you need it. The more drawers, the better. I always put tons of drawers wherever I can.
So be thinking when you’re designing, the needs of your clients and friends and families change and evolve, Universal Design helps make people feel better about themselves and that’s really important and I think you also hit upon that feeling. Universal Design is important to the people feel empowered about themselves. It makes them feel less isolated, feel more independent and more in control of their own health and well-being.
So be thinking about when you’re designing, can this bathroom be safely used by — in the United States, a 15.2 million wheelchair and mobility aid users, 4 million persons who have had strokes who are now only able to use one side of their bodies, the 6.6 million visually impaired or those with aging eyes, and the almost 40 million arthritic persons, and some people will say, arthritis, that’s no big deal, but there’s tons of different types of arthritis, which I found out recently, there’s a lot of very disabling arthritis. Different shapes and forms that occur. Which I never knew about before. So I’m educating myself as I’m doing this research.
And this is all according to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States. So be thinking, can this bathroom be used safely by people with broken bones? Young persons, short persons? Tall persons? Elder persons? Broken bone people. Persons with back, knee or hip problems. Elders with little arm strength. Pregnant women. Then there’s the multi-generational households. In the United States we have a large influx of immigrants from Asia, India, Mexico, who come from traditional multi-generational homes. They have grandparents, parents and children living in the same household. So you have elderly people who have to use the same kitchen and bathroom as everybody else. So you need to make the bathroom safe for all three generations. With the downturn in the economy, there’s a lot of adult children returning home. So there’s a lot of need for bathroom safety for many different age levels.
So the CDC shows that 35.7% of adults, 17% of children age 2 to 19 years of age are obese in our country. That is due a lot to the processed food that we eat and to the GMO foods that we eat, unfortunately. So our population is two-thirds overweight or obese and a third obese, which is really alarming. So when designing a bathroom, you have to design for overweight people.
And then the 2010 United States census reports there are now over 4.3 million multi-generational homes. That’s a lot of people in multi-generational homes. So all these statistics show that many millions of people will benefit from safe, convenient and beautiful Universal Design features and products in their bathroom.
So in conclusion, remember that throughout the lifetime of a client, they might encounter any of the conditions or phases of life that we just spoke about. So I’m suggesting that you suggest to your clients alternative Universal Design features and products that will be usable by them, their families, their visiting relatives, their friends, that might be in any one of these stages. Unexpected things happen. Universal Design helps to prepare the bathroom’s user for traumatic changes, for aging in place, and for all of the ever-changing phases of life. The client will enjoy their bathroom knowing that it has been designed to offer a safe, efficient, functional space that is gorgeous and up to date.
And it doesn’t look like this.
Thank you.


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