1651070032719 Active Aire1

What’s that Smell in the Aire?

Aug. 17, 2018

Kadie Yale, architecture and design expert for Buildings, reviews the motion-activated air fresheners installed in the bathrooms at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

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?

In the C terminal bathrooms of Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Active Aire, a GP Pro motion-activated air freshener, is installed in each of the stalls. The placard above states this is user-controlled; just wave your hand in front of the sitting-level (at least in the women’s bathroom) silver surface, and a scent will be released.

ActiveAire from GP Pro motion-activated air freshener gives restroom users a sense of control.

Did it work? I have no idea.

There wasn’t the usual “spray” sound one hears from commercial air fresheners, and I think the scent in the stall stayed about the same. Although I’ll be honest…I didn’t take a deep whiff. I’ll test out bathroom products and write about the experience, but I think there’s a line when it comes to the olfactory sense.

Related: Reduce Water Consumption with Safety in Mind

For the Active Aire, there are some immediate pros and cons.

Active Aire Pros

The product is slim. It sits less than an inch out from the wall, and the silver surface matches the typical silver stall. It doesn’t hinder the user’s stall experience. 

Even if it didn’t work, there’s the placebo effect that the user has some control over their environment. That’s important in high-traffic public bathrooms, particularly in places like airports where people can easily spend hours in one location.

In general, the public bathroom experience is not usually a desirable one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone choose to hang out in one, even if an empty electrical socket is easily available. But they aren’t meant to be more than a space to do what one has to do and get out of there. 

Despite the fact that everyone in a public bathroom is there with the same purpose, there’s a lot of anxiety for users. Giving people the option to feel like they have some control over how they can be perceived in that space lessens anxiety.

Active Aire Cons

Because there isn’t a sound or overt smell when using the Active Aire, it’s difficult to know whether it’s working. No matter what, the placebo effect is there, but it’s important to recognize that even if something can be engineered out, that doesn’t mean it should be. 

The best example I have comes from a conversation I had with Wilson Chow, president at OM Seating. They released a new office chair during NeoCon 2016, and he was showing me the lever that allowed for the lumbar to be raised and lowered. It made the typical “clack-clack-clack-clack” you’re used to hearing.

Vintage BUILDINGS Magazine Sept. 1913

What do you think the editors and readers of BUILDINGS from this 1913 issue would think about the product featured in this article you’re reading from 2018? 

Innovation continues to remain prevelant in the bathroom, even more than 100 years later. (And ways to save.)

Find more pages from a century ago here

But dont forget to finish reading this one from 2018 first!

However, this sound was engineered into the product. The lever didn’t need to make sound at all; it could easily slide along silently. But that sound which causes minor annoyance also provides users with a sense of security that the chair is doing what it needs to be doing.

Without this artificial sound, users believed the chair was broken. I had the same experience with the Active Aire.

Yes, getting a blast of scent to the face would have been uncomfortable, but even a slight “pouff” sound engineered into the product would have made me feel as if it were really working.

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About the Author

Kadie Yale | Former Architecture & Design Expert

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School.

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