A Bathroom Automation Narrative

Nov. 30, 2018

There’s a tangible benefit to automation in restrooms and not just for the occupants using them. As a building owner or facility manager, automation also helps save energy usage costs.

Hello. Christoph Trappe here. Today, I’m calling in - I almost said calling in. I guess I did. But reaching you today from the Madrid airport. Doing a little bit of a trip through Europe with my 10-year-old. I’m actually heading to one conference in London. We just came from Paris. And we had a lengthy layover in Madrid, about five hours.

My 10-year-old, I gave her the choice, whether or not she wanted to go out into town or just hang out at the club or do something - well, what was her idea to spend those five hours.

It’s relatively short. Certainly, enough time to head into Madrid to grab lunch or something like that, of course, you can do that at the VIP lounge as well. So, anyway, we ended up - totally her decision. I would have done whatever she wanted to do quite frankly.

She wanted to just spend the time at the club, which probably ended up being a good decision because she took a nice nap, I took a little bit of a nap and we still have about 90 minutes to go before boarding to Dusseldorf, Germany where we’ll be heading next for the evening to meet with family.

I’ve been at the clubs in Madrid quite a few times actually over the years. And the one we’re currently in is within the Schengen area. So, that’s the countries in the European Union where you don’t have to show your passport crossing international borders.

[Wildlife Refuge: America’s Best Restroom]

For example, we entered that area from the US into France. And now, as long as we stay in there, we don’t have to show passports across the borders.

Automation in Bathrooms

What’s interesting about this club, the bathroom - guys, I’ve been thinking about talking about this topic for quite a while, automation in bathrooms. It’s so fascinating to me, it’s so interesting.

I’m a little bit of a germophobe as some of you may be aware. I get on a plane, I wipe down my seat. I have 120-pack of cleaning wipes that I just take enough with me to clean things up. So, I like anything that gives me the perception of one, of being cleaner and also not have to touch things that other people touch. And also, things that actually are helping me to be clean.

Auto-Opening Doors

Automation in restrooms does that quite well, because if it’s done well, you don’t have to touch anything, right? I mean you see people, they leave the restroom and they have a towel to basically open the door and then they throw that in the trash.

Some restrooms have put a trashcan next to the exit door, so people can just throw that in there instead of just throwing it on the floor. And that’s nice and that’s a step in the right direction. But that’s not automation, right?

Automation that I’m talking about is of course, one step is the automatic hand dryers. That’s one thing. Automatic lights, automatic flushing. Automatic water, soap dispenser, automatic doors and the one here in Madrid has a lot of those things. I’ll try to get some pictures the next time I’m heading that way.

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I’m actually sitting at the far end of the club and the restroom is a little way over. And you might imagine it’s quite difficult to get photos inside of a restroom because there’s people going to the restroom, right? So, even though it’s not like you’re right on top of them, some people might have some privacy concerns with that.

But if I catch it empty, before we leave here in the next 90 minutes, I’ll certainly try to get some pictures.

Let me just describe the scene to you. So, you walk in and the door opens automagically. You don’t even have to touch the door. There’s a sensor. It looks rather luxurious if you ask me, you know. But you walk in, the door opens, you go to the restroom and then you have the automatic flushing. I think many, many different restrooms now have that functionality.

I hardly ever see one where that’s not the case anymore. And when I do see one, I really get frustrated about it because it does give me, as a little bit of a germophobe, a peace of mind that I don’t have to touch the handle, I don’t have to flush and those kinds of things.

Interestingly about this club before I get back to the restroom, it’s on like a second level, very similar to what they have in Washington D.C. at Reagan National and you’re kind of looking down over other passengers and boarding. There’re not too many gates, like two gates I guess right in front of me. And the one plane was sitting there for quite a while.

Benefits to “Automagic” Lights

Once you go in, that’s automatic. If you go into a stall, the light in there actually turns on automatically. So, that’s always fantastic. You know, you can certainly turn it off. And I’m sure that saves a lot of energy.

For facility managers, building owners, you know, when lights are just left on, that’s certainly can run up the cost.

What’s that Smell in the Aire?

With so many options made available these days, customizable and individual experiences are at an all-time high.

But how far should building owners and facilities managers take it?

And the hotel we were staying at in Paris actually had one of those - when you wanted to have their lights on, you had to push the key card into the slot to enable the light switch. So, obviously you can’t do that in a quasy-public restroom in an airport club.

But that’s certainly another way to make sure you’re not running up the unnecessary bills.

Once you go in the stall, the lights turn on. Once you leave, and I think what happened is it turns on when you lock the door. So, it’s not motion-sensored, but I think what happened is it turned on when you lock the door. That’s kind of a new thing.

Yet I didn’t ask the designers if that is actually what happened or if that was just a stroke of luck on my part. But certainly, that was my impression of what was happening there.

Easy-to-Understood Sink Instructions

Then when you leave, a really beautiful design where you wash your hands and sometimes, that area of the restroom is really hard to figure out. Do you wave your hand to get the towel to come out? Or do you put your hand underneath? Do you have to pull?

And there was some show I saw the other day, and somebody was trying to figure it out and they couldn’t, and it was kind of funny. But that is a real problem.

So, the way this is designed is they do have - the description’s written on the mirror. So, it says “hand-dryer” with an arrow on the left so you can just hold your hands under that mirror and you can hand-dry your hands after you’ve washed them.

(Photo credit: Christoph Trappe)

And there’s a sign “hand soap” and you just put your hands underneath, it comes out. It’s kind of a little bit like you’re putting your hands into a black hole because you’re not necessarily looking. Though I did see some people who actually were bending down and looking where everything was. I didn’t, and it worked just fine. It was relatively self-explanatory, relatively easy to use.

I got the soap, washed my hands. That turned on automatically as well. And then the towels, there’s another piece of signage that the towels are on the right and you just pull them out. They were right there. They don’t come out automatically, but they’re right there, so easy-breezy.

Free Handwashing Signage

Download this free signage and post around your facility.

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Then you just leave the restroom. And the door, again, opens automatically. There’s no reason for you to touch it or throw your towel in a trash bin or on the floor, or whatever people do. And really, really nice set up.

So, that’s my little spiel on automation in restrooms.

I’m certain there will be new innovations, new inventions over the years. Some things greater - probably can’t even think about. But that has come a long way. And I certainly appreciate all the different companies that work on those things and make things as bearable as possible for people like me who don’t want to touch other people’s door handles or, you know, flush the toilet, I guess.

But that is a real improvement, very customer-centric. I certainly appreciate it. And the one here in the Madrid at the International Airport is certainly one of the shining examples that I’ve seen out there.

So, that’s all I have for now. If you have any thoughts, feel free to drop me a note over on Twitter @ctrappe. This was first live-streamed on @ctrappe on Twitter and @ctrappe on Periscope. And of course, you may be listening to this on other places, including on and potentially

Have a good one everybody. I’ll be sure to circle back if there’s anything else to share on this trip.

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About the Author

Christoph Trappe | Former Chief Content Officer

Christoph Trappe, a top 25 content marketer and author, was the former chief content officer at Stamats Communications, the parent company of BUILDINGS.

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