When it comes to school facilities, toilet blocks are often the least attractive element of student life.
It is fair to say most school bathrooms are basic, often not renovated since the school was built decades ago, and while ever the toilet’s flushed no-one gave them a second thought.
For those, whose school years are miles back in the rear-view mirror, they were often a place for harmless hijinks.
But today, they are a hot hub for some serious issues.
They can be a hot spot for bullying – a blight on school life.
Head of Education at construction company Paynter Dixon, Matthew Greene said that while working with students, he has found that some are too scared to use toilets given there is little supervision or security.
“On more than one occasion, students have confided that they hold on rather than use the school’s toilets,’’ Mr Greene said.
“Simple design improvements like individual bathrooms, including full-height doors to provide full privacy, separate mechanical exhaust and basins can solve the issue.’’
COVID-19 has also shone a very bright spotlight on hygiene, particularly in bathrooms.
Some school bathrooms now don’t make the grade.
‘’The advent of COVID-19 should encourage schools to refurbish their bathrooms for improved infection control,’’ said Mr Greene who is a design architect.
“This can be via a touchless approach where students can enter and exit without having to push on doors, and use sensor-activated tapware to avoid contamination.”
And probably, the most pressing and complex challenge – gender fluidity.
The term gender-fluid is not new, first noted in the 1980s.
Gender-fluid students do not have a fixed gender and can feel more male or female on any given day.
“Gender fluidity is an increasing issue for schools, and there is a need to provide equitable access for students dealing with sexual identity issues,” said Mr Greene.
“This can be solved through the installation of uni-sex ensuite facilities.’’
Apart from the school canteen and hospitality kitchens, bathrooms top the expense list in school construction costs.
“There is now a real need for schools to upgrade facilities, but with all building projects, getting the design right is critical,’’ said Mr Greene.
To find out more: Matthew.Greene@paynterdixon.com.au