Bathroom design through demographic change

Frankfurt/Main, 17th April 2013. Sustainability in the bathroom is not only manifested in water-saving technologies, environmentally friendly materials and resource-efficient production methods, it is also reflected in bathroom design and architecture. The German quality manufacturers of the Blue Responsibility initiative are taking on social responsibility by preparing for the demographic change with flexible solutions.

The demographic change in Germany can be felt more and more. Not only politics, industry and trade have to react to the changing social structures, the German sanitaryware industry has also long been prepared for the changing user requirements. The Blue Responsibility initiative explains exactly what influence the demographic change is having on bathroom design.

The demands people have for their bathrooms change over time. In addition to personal care and relaxation, issues such as comfort and safety are special focal points. ‘This has been felt for many years already. The generation 50+ has the greatest spending power and the highest readiness for innovations to adapt particularly their bathrooms to the changed requirements. The targeted use of intelligent products and flexible systems such as contactless taps, handles or shower seats is an important point here,’ explains Katja Zimmermann, Marketing Communications Manager at Keuco.

The aspect of health prevention is also becoming more and more important in bathrooms: ‘When we look at the expected challenge of the demographic development in our society and on the health care market, holistic health increasingly becomes the centre of social interest. The concept of ‘Healthness’ is new sustainable trend with growing popularity which also influences bathroom design – bathrooms are more and more turning into a space for physical and mental health care and prevention,’ says Holger Struck, Brand and Corporate Communications Manager at Dornbracht.

Changing bathroom design with increasing demand for style
Most people want to live in their own home for as long as possible. A survey by TNS Emnid found that one in two German citizens over the age of 50 would be prepared to convert their home or flat for this purpose. The findings of the ‘Old age living’ commission of the German Association for Urban Development and Regional Planning show how important this shift in thinking is on the level of manufacturers, retailers and users. According to this research, merely five percent of all people over the age of 65 in Germany live in functional houses or flats where they can move around easily. Bathrooms are an important factor in this, as lower entry levels for showers, generous room to move or toilets mounted at a higher level make everyday life much easier. This is why the KfW banking group have been providing low-interest loans for modernisation measures aimed at removing barriers in living spaces according to the ‘age-appropriate housing’ standard since April 2012.

‘It is also becoming more important that planners take into account the long term use of a bathroom from the start. However, customers generally still want stylish design. One of the greatest challenges for bathroom planning is therefore the implementation an ideal synthesis of function and design. This particularly includes intelligent layout planning with generous areas for movement,’ explains Veit Szpak, Marketing Manager at MEPA – Pauli und Menden. Katrin Wiedemann, Marketing/Communications Consultant at Kludi also points out that no customer wants a product that obviously looks like a special fitting. Marcus Möllers, Manager Public Relations at Kaldewei, confirms: ‘Flexible solutions have to be integrated into the bathroom concept so they are virtually invisible without becoming a focal point.’

Solutions with a vision
With a view to the requirements of demographic change, the German quality manufacturers are continuously working to allow unrestricted movement in the bathroom today and tomorrow, to give individual design to their products and to ensure intuitive operation. The demand for flush shower trays, for example, has increased immensely. Veit Szpak explains: ‘Barrier-free showers are already a standard for new buildings.’ ‘In combination with special anti-slip surfaces, these offer increased steadiness in addition to the barrier-free entry,’ adds Marcus Möllers. Accessories also play an important role in this context, as Katja Zimmermann from Keuco knows: ‘Handles, bar systems or seats can be retrofitted quickly and easily, offering added safety and comfort in the shower.’

Furthermore certain pre-wall elements allow easy retrofitting, e.g. sinks with wheelchair access or height-adjustable toilets. Special pre-wall systems with modular design are particularly ideal for retrofitting. ‘This allows the bathroom the be continuously changed and adapted to the requirements of its user,’ explains Veit Szpak. Toilet elements that allow the sanitary units to be individually adjusted at any time provide even more comfort. ‘With this solution, users can conveniently change the height of the toilet by up to 80 mm at the press of a button, without any electronics. Ideal for a household with several generations,’ explains Dirk Thielker, Marketing Director at Viega.

Last but not least a multi-generation bathroom should also include intuitive operation of all fittings. Contactless solutions are particularly suitable for this. They automatically start the water flow as soon as a user moves in the outlet area. Veit Szpak confirms: ‘Intuitive operation facilitates handling for all users, from children to older people.’

To allow for demographic change, many of the leading sanitaryware manufacturers from the Blue Responsibility initiative, including e.g. Keuco or Villeroy & Boch, have already developed bathroom concepts for long-term use. ‘Multi-generation concepts unite sustainable design and optimum operation in every phase of life, making full use of the products' life cycle. Sustainable concepts like these point the way for the bathroom design of the future,’ summarises Almut Kellermeyer, Press and Public Relations Director at Villeroy & Boch.

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