Ever since Silicon Valley hires began playing ping-pong at work, the design of offices, hotels and higher-education facilities have become increasingly home-like. Yet this long-running trend has not necessarily been holistic: The bathrooms in many of these spaces possess an institutional atmosphere that is a far cry from the inviting kitchen or salvaged wood–lined collaboration zone on the other side of the wall.
MICX by Daniel Libeskind; photo by Philippe van Gelooven
Only recently have architects and interior designers noticed this disconnect. And to make their commercial bathroom fixture packages feel more domestic, they are turning to suppliers that they have long trusted for residences.
One manufacturer participating in this specification revelation is Duravit. As the producer of sanitary ceramics, shower trays and bathtubs, as well as other bathroom must-haves for 200 years, the German company is widely associated with homes — and synonymous with smart contemporary design. Today, Duravit USA president Tim Schroeder reports that new and returning clients are increasingly relying on the brand for commercial bathrooms. Most notably, architects and interior designers are sourcing Duravit toilets and urinals.
Moesgaard Museum by Henning Larsen Architects
The executive says design professionals began thinking of Duravit in a commercial bent slightly more than a decade ago. Schroeder explains, “Sinks initially brought us into the market, and now we are selected for the entire bathroom suite, because if a sink can have a beautiful commercial aesthetic, then why can’t the toilet and the urinal?” Specifiers are recognizing that the reinvented commercial bathroom should be consistent in its design language and attention to detail.
Neuer Zollhof by Frank Gehry; photo by Stephan Falk
At Duravit, newfound consistency has most profoundly benefited the Starck 3 series of products named for longtime company collaborator and design powerhouse Philippe Starck. Schroeder believes this correlation partly has to do with timing. “The collection has been around since the ’90s and has been widely applied to a vast variety of projects for over two decades,” he says, so specifiers feel confident of Starck 3’s performance as well as its aesthetic appropriateness.
The vastness of the Starck 3 collection also supports commercial specification. “A resort may come to us looking for products for guestrooms, and this will lead to bathrooms in the five restaurants or casino on the property,” Schroeder says. “For another example, one might have specified a handful of products for two stalls in a commercial project only to find out that the building calls for more product to fit into less space to accommodate capacity.” There is a desire for consistency, writ large, in other words, and Starck 3’s myriad versions — wall-mounted and floor-standing, single- and dual-flush — suit various conditions. Its compact wall-mounted toilets and bidets offer a practical solution for the smaller rooms of Schroeder’s second scenario; these extend a mere 19-1/8 inches beyond the wall.
In response to commercial demand, Duravit has expanded Starck 3’s versatility, in turn. Its recent flushometer toilet collection features an elongated front and siphoning-flush technology for heavily trafficked settings and is available as an ADA-compliant floor-standing model with visible inlet and open front as well as wall-mounted with visible or concealed inlet.
Schroeder notes that commercial specifiers often cite low maintenance and water conservation as project criteria in addition to the visual continuity. Besides considering Starck 3 for a space, then, these clients will gravitate toward wall-mounted and freestanding Durastyle toilets. The open design of Durastyle’s flushing rims enables powerful low-flow flushing: Water flows in the form of a horizontal arc, and then vertically, before flushing the entire inner surface of the bowl without splashing. The geometry of the rim also expedites cleaning of the bowl, while optional WonderGliss coating prevents dirt and limescale from latching onto the ceramic.
For an alternative urinal, Schroeder recommends the Architec collection, whose variations include a classic flushing rim or flushing jet with easy-to-clean rim, with water inlet either from above or behind, or a programmable electronic version. In all cases, Architec boasts a cleanable form and an interior siphon cartridge that can be replaced without dismantling equipment.
Meanwhile, the Architec Dry urinal flushes without any water consumption whatsoever. Its hose diaphragm–integrated outlet automatically opens only during urine flows, which can be entirely disguised by a cover with scented ring. The diaphragm is replaced when the green biodegradable gel in the fragrance ring has completely dissolved.
For newcomers to commercial specification, Schroeder suggests not a specific product collection, but the four Cs: continuity, (ADA) compliance, cleanability and conservation. He expects the mnemonic to come in handy as specifiers increasingly look to Duravit and its colleagues for help in humanizing commercial bathrooms. Duravit is further educating this expanding audience with website updates, digital campaigns and marketing collateral that identify products suitable for wide application and that generally addresses commercial concerns.