Designers in our industry work hard to stay current with technological innovations emerging for the kitchen. But in our fast-paced business, innovations are being introduced almost daily in the bathroom planning sector as well. Because there are so many dissimilar products used in a bathroom, it can be difficult to keep up with them all.
However, trend watchers have been clear: We’ll be serving a younger consumer who is an Internet research activist. Therefore, savvy designers who plan baths must devote research time to learning “what’s new” in the various product categories for the bathroom.
Product innovations can be tracked by reading industry publications, attending supplier and association meetings and conferences and visiting bath product manufacturers’ Web sites on a regular basis.
However, I believe these product-specific, fresh new ideas are being driven by several “umbrella” design and technological trends.
The first such trend is the need to balance the interest in green living with the desire for high-performance faucets and fixtures. Consumers want to “live responsibly” – they want to be green without feeling like they are sacrificing their experience with water. The power of water…is pretty powerful! But, so is consumers’ desire to be responsible global citizens.
Our industry’s mandate of function before fashion suggests that before we delve into what’s “trending” in water experiences, it’s important we increase our awareness of an EPA program called WaterSense.
Products bearing a WaterSense label:
- Perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts;
- Are 20% more water efficient than average products in that category;
- Realize water savings on a national level;
- Provide measurable water savings results;
- Achieve water efficiency through several technology options;
- Are part of the program after receiving an independent, third-party certification.
Talented designers are aware of the importance of specifying dual-flush toilets and water-conserving showerheads. So, researching products that carry the WaterSense label is a logical next step when suggesting green bathroom products to the consumer.
WATER & WELLNESS
The interesting change that goes hand-in-hand with “green” design is the interest consumers have in the wellness aspects – not just the cleaning potential – of water. Consumers value the de-stressing and/or invigorating spirit of a water experience.
While in the past, a long soaking bath was what people chose for rejuvenation, today’s showering experience offers the same sense of renewal.
New hand-held and wall- or ceiling-mounted stationary showerheads offer a variety of water experiences. Rather than complicated multi-head shower enclosures, new “shower towers” are available that include a stationary showerhead, a hand-held showerhead (as well as body sprays), the diverter and thermostatic control…and possibly a storage shelf.
Typical in Europe, but being introduced more and more in the U.S., this optional approach relies on one plumbing connection and a bar of some nature that includes the controls, various water experiences and even a storage shelf. For example, the Rain Dance Register Select by Hansgrohe combines an overhead shower with a hand-held shower in what they call a “shower pipe.”
More complex, carefully orchestrated showering experiences are also possible. For example, Dornbracht’s ATT (Ambiance Tuning Technique) Shower System offers various water scenarios that combine temperatures and volumes of water at different outlet points – all regulated by a central control element designed to provide a balancing experience, an energizing experience or a de-stressing experience.