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Bad Restroom Design Example

Some time ago, I wrote about female public restroom design basics. I am so tired of walking into badly designed female restrooms, and I wanted to give a primer to what women in need in a public restroom. We don’t need fancy. We need functional. Based on the comments to my post and also one of the most hilarious Twitter discussions I have ever had, men’s restrooms are badly designed also.

Last month one day, I was working in an office building that was not the one in which I normally work. It was an older building. I won’t say which office building it was, but it was in Washington, D.C. It was the perfect example of bad public restroom design. It was the perfect example of not updating elements that could be easily updated. Thus, of course, I had to take photos and share with everyone why it is a perfect example of bad restroom design.

Toilet stall so short, one must climb on the the toilet to close the door

Toilet stall so short, one must climb on the the toilet to close the door

First, it had toilet stalls so short, a woman has to either stand on the toilet or squeezed in between the toilet and the stall wall to close the door. I still don’t understand how the original designers just can’t understand door swing distance and the area of a human footprint needed to be in stall length calculations.

The sinks: 3 sinks with separate hot and cold water faucets and 2 working soap dispensers at the ends

The sinks: 3 sinks with separate hot and cold water faucets and 2 working soap dispensers at the ends

Then it had three sinks with only two soap dispensers, both of which were on the far ends of the sink areas. Thus, a person who uses the middle sink needs to either go to the end or reach across another sink to get soap. In defense of the original design, each sink did originally have a soap dispenser above each, but those are now non-functional. Instead of replacing the non-functional soap dispensers, they just put new ones at the end. It should be noted that by either changing the mirror or finding a smaller soap dispenser, the middle sink could have its own soap dispenser. Thus, the renovators of this bathroom do not get an excuse for the soap dispenser stupidness.

Next, also shown in the above photo, there are separate cold and hot water faucets. I am not sure if separate faucets originated before mixing valves were created, but that is the only reason I can think for their existence. However mixing valves exist now, and thus there is no point to the continued existence of separate hot and cold water faucets in a public restroom sink where a person is never going to be filling the sink with water to then wash their hands in the water filled sink. While it would obviously require taking out the sink and faucets, to change the plumbing to include a mixing valve, it could be done. Depending on the piping, it is possible it would require taking out some tile to change the plumbing, but it could be done, and it is not a massive renovation, and it would make the sinks so much more functional.

The inexplicable couch

The inexplicable couch

Finally, the restroom had a couch. Old buildings always seem to have couches in the female restrooms. Because women often get the vapors and need a lie down while we clutch our pearls until some savior arrives with smelling salts. Or something like that. Could you lie down on most of these couches? No, they are generally love seats. Would I lie down on any of these couches? No, I would never even touch most of these couches. But it fills the space, which seems to be only point of these couches.

Montreal

While we spent a good portion of our Montreal visit in Old Montreal, we did spend some time wandering around other parts of the city. (Also, see previous Parc du Mont-Royal post.) The Montreal Plateau could probably be considered the original suburbs and has beautiful townhouses and various ethnic areas. Downtown (Centre-Ville) has a lovely mix of old and new buildings and some nice parks that give much needed green space.

Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde

Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde

Centre Bell

Centre Bell

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Edifice Sun Life

Edifice Sun Life

Old and new Montreal

Old and new Montreal

Place Montréal Trust

Place Montréal Trust

Public are that makes sure you know it is public art

Public are that makes sure you know it is public art

Square Dorchester

Square Dorchester

St. George's Anglican Church

St. George’s Anglican Church

townhouses

townhouses

townhouses

townhouses

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

While visiting Old Montreal, we visited the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal (Notre-Dame Basilica). In my opinion, while the outside is pretty, the outside is somewhat deceptively plain compared to the beauty inside. The inside is gorgeous. There is just amazingly detailed decoration everywhere. There is beautiful wood, gilding, colors, paintings, stained glass, statues, and more. You name it; it is there. Much of the detailed decoration on the walls and ceilings is really well done trompe l’oeil. Then behind the church is the chapel, which has a sort of gilded modern decoration. While the church is bathed in a blue light, the chapel is bathed in a gold light. The builders and artists who built and decorated the basilica really did any amazing job.

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, looking towards alter

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, looking towards alter

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, looking towards organ

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, looking towards organ

sanctuary

sanctuary

top of alter

top of alter

wall behind alter

wall behind alter

alter statue

alter statue

Pulpit

Pulpit

confessional

confessional

Alter on side of the church

Alter on side of the church

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal Chapel

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal Chapel

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal Chapel

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal Chapel

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal Chapel

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal Chapel

Old Montreal

I spent much of my short visit to Montreal just wandering around Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal). I love old buildings, and Old Montreal certainly has plenty of them. It has lots of charm, cobblestone streets, cafes, and shops. It sits right on the St. Lawrence River, and there is a wonderful linear park that separates the river and its quais (wharfs) from the main part of Old Montreal. It is just a lovely place to visit and walk around.   

Old City Hall (Hôtel de ville de Montréal)

Old City Hall (Hôtel de ville de Montréal)

Place Jacques-Cartier

Place Jacques-Cartier

Rue Saint Paul

Rue Saint Paul

Rue Saint Paul

Rue Saint Paul

Place d'Armes with views of the more modern buildings in Old Montreal

Place d’Armes with views of the more modern buildings in Old Montreal

Bank of Montreal

Bank of Montreal

Saint-Sulpice Seminary

Saint-Sulpice Seminary

Old Montreal building

Old Montreal building

Place Royale

Place Royale

Parc Lineaire de la Commune

Parc Lineaire de la Commune

Parc Lineaire de la Commune

Parc Lineaire de la Commune

Bonsecours Basin Park with views of Bonsecours Market and Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

Bonsecours Basin Park with views of Bonsecours Market and Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

Quai des Convoyeurs

Quai des Convoyeurs

Quai Jacques-Cartier

Quai Jacques-Cartier

When an engineer gets to comment on building maintenance

One nice thing about where I work is that we get to fill out surveys about how we like the building we work in and comment on it. I have my doubts about how much they act on the survey results, or how much they pay attention to the comments if an employee bothers to give comments, but hey, it’s a great place to vent. I actually for the most part like my building. It is relatively new and doesn’t have the problems that many older buildings that my employer has has. It is kept clean and and looks nice. One big problem I have with it is the same that I have with almost every other office building: the temperature is set at a temperature that is comfortable for men not women. By about 11 am, once the HVAC has fully gotten the ambient air to the set point (as opposed to earlier in the day when it is ramping up after having been off during the night), the vast majority of women are walking around in sweaters, jackets, or blankets that all of us keep at our desk. [Spoiler: When I rule the world, I will dictate two things. Office buildings will be set at temperatures that are comfortable to women, not men. Also, public restrooms will be designed better. In particular, the stalls will be longer so that women don't have to climb on the toilet to close the stall door. Truthfully there are many things that need to be improved in public restrooms, most of which I and many other people have covered is this somewhat comical, somewhat serious past blog post.] However, the building I work in has some of the worst plumbing issues I have ever seen, especially for a building that is less than ten years old. Ironically it has LEED certification, but whoever certifies it appears to ignore the obvious water wasting issues it has, as I detail below. I’ve decided to share below the comments I gave in the building survey, not because it will really accomplish anything, just as a way to vent and possibly to serve as a warning why if you let an engineer comment on a building with design and maintenance issues, you may get more than you wanted. Thus, my full comments are as follows.

With all the dual flush toilets, only one flush button actually works. With some toilets it is the half flush button, with some the full flush button. However whether or not the working button is actually whichever button it appears to be is unclear, or if they have possibly all been disabled and all converted to full flush. They constantly run. Almost every time I enter a restroom, I have to push the flush button on at least one toilet to get it to stop running. The restroom auto soap and water sinks are like sink roulette. Which sink will give me soap? Which sink will not continuously squirt soap at me? Which sink will give me water? It takes forever to get repairs done on issues in the pantry/kitchens. It took them two weeks or so to put a new aerator in the sink faucet. A part that can be bought at any time at Home Depot. It is not special. Maintenance blames pantry sink issues on reasons that are not the problem. On numerous occasions, water has come bubbling up from the drain pipes into the sink. Sometimes so much water has bubbled up that the sink has overflowed with disgusting brown wastewater. Then maintenance posts signs saying not to put coffee grounds down the drain as that caused issue. While coffee grounds will cause a sink with a bad garbage disposal to not allow the sink to drain (and putting coffee grounds down the drain is a bad idea), it will not cause water to flow up from pipes below. (I’m a chemical engineer I can prove this with fluid dynamics equations!) There is obviously some issue with the drain pipes below our floor, which any competent plumber or chemical engineer could tell you.

While there was no place to attach photos or videos, below is a photo of the backed up kitchen sink and video of it overflowing.

My office's pantry/kitchen sink when it was backed up and overflowing with wastewater. Photo was taken 1/8/2013.

My office’s pantry/kitchen sink when it was backed up and overflowing with wastewater. Photo and below video was taken 1/8/2013.

Parc du Mont-Royal

After spending some time enjoying the tam-tams, I went further into Parc du Mont-Royal to do a little hiking and to visit the overlooks that I had read have amazing views of the city. The park is on part of a mountain, so the overlooks have wonderful views of the city below on the plain. The Camillien-Houde lookout gives views of the northern half of Montreal Island, and the Kondiaronk lookout gives views from the northeast and southwest including downtown Montreal. I wished I had had more time to hike as much of the park is a dense forest. It is a wonderful park and oasis, akin to New York’s Central Park.

Trails through the park's forest

Trails through the park’s forest

Rock outcroppings near the trails

Rock outcroppings near the trails

From Camillien-Houde lookout

From Camillien-Houde lookout

From Camillien-Houde lookout, a view of the Jacques Cartier Bridge (with zoom)

From Camillien-Houde lookout, a view of the Jacques Cartier Bridge (with zoom)

From Camillien-Houde lookout, a view of the Olympic venue (with zoom)

From Camillien-Houde lookout, a view of the Olympic venue (with zoom)

From Kondiaronk lookout looking at downtown

From Kondiaronk lookout looking at downtown

From Kondiaronk lookout looking east

From Kondiaronk lookout looking east

From Kondiaronk lookout looking west

From Kondiaronk lookout looking west

Montreal Tam-tams

After my week in Burlington, I made a short, first visit to Montreal. I must admit, I had a few preconceptions about Montreal. I don’t know if my preconceptions were because Montreal is the largest city in Quebec, and I associate French speaking with more cosmopolitan or because of some of the history and politics of Canada and Quebec. In any event, I’ve been to Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, and a few other places in Canada, but I wasn’t sure if I would like Montreal as much as I have liked the other places. All my preconceptions about Montreal pretty much flew out the window mainly due to the fact that one of the first things we visited on the first day of sightseeing was the Sunday afternoon Tam-Tams in Parc du Mont-Royal. I had read about the Tam-tams in Lonely Planet, and they are sort of scheduled spontaneity of drumming and a few other musical instruments. People just come and start making lovely music, and then other people come and start dancing to the music. It seemed like a bit of a hippie-fest, and that characterization is not meant to be derogatory. I had no idea so many hippies lived in Montreal. It was really fun to watch, and if you are ever in Montreal on a summer Sunday afternoon, I encourage you to go to George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Parc du Mont-Royal. Just don’t blame me if you start dancing around like a nut.

IMG_9105

This child was watching the adult dance with clear curiosity.

IMG_9126

Adults brought little drums out of nowhere to try to get these kids to drum. The kids were not clear on what they were supposed to be doing.

IMG_9135

I loved his mobile drumming setup, complete with bicycle wheel and I think frying pan.

IMG_9311

This guy seemed like a very serious drummer.

IMG_9320

There seemed to be a “main” group of drummers on the benches and then “back up” drummers sitting on the wall.

IMG_9101

I assume he did not cart the drums because people were throwing trash in the drums, but this guy was the epitome of a cool drummer.

IMG_9131

Yes, there was cowbell.

IMG_9314

The “main” band.

Also, the tam-tam was not the only activity occurring in that area. There were people walking on a tightrope (attached to two trees) and a group of people doing some sort of yoga, gymnastic, balancing thing. Also, there was a guy creating very large bubbles.

Tightrope walker with yoga gymnasts in background

Tightrope walker with yoga gymnasts in background

Guy creating some really large bubbles.

Guy creating some really large bubbles.

Burlington Uniqueness

I have already written how nice a town Burlington, Vermont is and how much I love its colorful houses. I just had to add one more post with a few photos of some of fun, arty, and unique things that I saw there that help to make it a cute town.

First, on Church Street, there is this water fountain which is probably one of the most unique and beautiful public water fountains that I have ever seen.

Water fountain on Church Street

Water fountain on Church Street

Then there is this box on Church Street where you can put donations for the less fortunate, and it is of course designed to look like Champ, the famous monster of Lake Champlain.

Donation box that looks like a very cute Champ

Donation box that looks like a very cute Champ

Then there are these paintings on a commercial building that are by far the best way to incorporate electrical boxes into the exterior design of a building that I have ever seen.

Paintings on and around electrical/telephone boxes

Paintings on and around electrical/telephone boxes

Best use of an electric meter in a painting

Best use of an electric meter in a painting

Then finally there is this sign that I spotted several copies of on Church Street. I have no idea if the second part is actually written into the Burlington ordinance, but it would be awesome if it was.

Dog ordinance sign

Dog ordinance sign

Burlington Houses

While I spent much of my time walking around Burlington, Vermont, in the downtown area, I also spent a good deal of time walking around some of the residential neighborhoods. Burlington has some historic, large, gorgeous houses, and many of them are painted in various, traditional colorful schemes. However, Burlington also has plenty of not quite as old, not quite as nice houses painted in not quite so traditional colors. Some of them are painted in almost blindingly bright color schemes, and I loved them. They are not traditional at all, but in my opinion, they are completely fun. I don’t even like some of the color schemes, but I love that someone cares enough about the house and what it looks like to paint it something other than all white.

The day that I spent much of my time photographing these houses, I walked into the Fletcher Free Library. While I was admiring the architecture of the old section of the building, Lorrie, one of the library workers asked me if I was enjoying the architecture. We had a lovely conversation about the library, Burlington, and Burlington’s houses. It turns out she knows the owner of many of the colorful houses that I was admiring. You have to love small towns, because of course I would run into someone who knows the owner of many of the houses. According to her, Stu lives in the brick house with purple trim that is situated between the two purple-painted wooden houses, and he has the purple Camino. These were some of the houses that I was admiring the most, especially since they featured the color coordinated purple car in-between them. Also, his brick house has a duck family walking on the ceiling of the entry porch because of course it does. He and his wife own and rent many of the bright houses, and he paints them that way just because he likes it and doesn’t care what others think. Stu, I am an admirer of your work. I don’t like all the color schemes, but I love that you painted them that way.

Post has been edited to correct the spelling of Lorrie’s name. Thank you Stu for the correction, and thank you for your comment!

lavender houseblue and orange house blue duplex brick and purple trim

purple house and camino

clay color house fancy blue house fancy cream hosue green and creme hosue lime green store orange and purple houses pink and red house primary color apartments purple and blue houses sage green house sunset trim wood and metal house yellow houseWell played Benjamin Moore, well played.

Benjamin Moore