Transforming transport washrooms

New washroom technology can improve hygiene and user experience while reducing water and energy consumption. Cistermiser’s David Meacock explains.

Washrooms are top priority when designing customer-facing areas for transport infrastructure. A clean, hygienic and inviting washroom can make a positive impact and set the standards of cleanliness for the whole building.

Visitors dread long queues and dirty, clogged or overflowing amenities that are neither hygienic nor welcoming. Such issues can create an awful experience for customers, a horrible mess for the cleaning staff, and a costly problem for management.

A careful choice of the fixtures, fittings and the technology installed in a washroom are key to addressing these matters.

Cistern concerns

Flush toilets with cisterns take a while to refill, which can be problematic for a facility used by large groups. Cisterns with six or  three-litre capacity refill quicker but the smaller volume of water may not clear the waste, leading to blockages.

And it’s not just toilets. Some urinals also use cisterns, although many of these have been replaced by waterless models which used chemicals rather water to flush waste away. Unfortunately, these are not likely to solve the issue; the cartridges they use can also quickly clog and at best can only cope with a given flow-rate.

A more complete solution can be found by simply using direct-flushing systems (connected straight into the mains) that offer instant flushing and ensures waste is removed.


Infrared (IR) sensors are increasingly being specified instead of the more traditional manually-operated taps and toilet-flushing handles.

Toilets can be vastly improved by fitting IR sensors and flush valves. The sensor reduces contact between user and washroom, either to a simple ‘wave action’ to flush, or a ‘walkaway’ option whereby the toilet automatically flushes once the user is finished. Hand-washing facilities can also be fitted with sensor taps or spouts to turn water on or off automatically.

These simple installations can vastly improve the visitor experience, and provide a cleaner and easy to use facility.

Cutting costs

The other area of particular concern to the building’s management team is likely to be managing water and energy use. Washrooms can account for 75 per cent of water consumption if toilets are not fitted with partial flush controls. Specifying waterless urinals is one solution, but their cartridges can quickly clog and at best can only cope with a given flow-rate. Moreover, water would still be needed for cleaning such urinals, along with hefty doses of chemical treatments.

On the other hand, urinal flush control products are relatively easy to install and deliver significant water savings. A cheaper examples for urinal cisterns are hydraulic control valves fitted to the in-pipe. The valve is activated by water pressure and remains closed  until a tap is turned on. When the water pressure drops, the valve opens and the cistern-refill cycle continues.

Combining urinal flush control valves with IR technology – which automatically detects a visitor’s presence – can reduce water use by as much as 80 per cent.

IR sensors are also able to cut energy usage by controlling the lights, ventilation and the water supply. This type of washroom control system can improve a building’s BREEAM score in the categories related to water, energy, heating and ventilation (notably HEA06, HEA07, ENERGY07 and WAT03).

Tech-tied future

The management of washroom facilities is expected to take a further major step forward through the introduction of the next generation of telemetry and wireless technology.

These devices will provide full visibility of water demand and usage levels and be remotely controlled via the Internet.

David Meacock is technical director for washroom specialist Cistermiser