Good Restroom Design

Well-designed cost effective public restrooms provide maximum function in minimum space and are safe, accessible, available, attractive and easy to maintain.

The PHLUSH Design Principles for Public Restrooms identify seven essential characteristics of successful facilities and specify the design elements required to meet each. They build on a variety of sources and are aligned with the needs of diverse users and the realities of contemporary urban life.


The working goal of the PHLUSH Public Toilet Design Principles: Cost-effective public restrooms that provide maximum function in minimum space and are safe, accessible, available, attractive and easy to maintain.

Endorsed and approved by neighborhood groups in Portland, Oregon in 2008, these principles guide the work of PHLUSH today. We summarize the seven principles as follows -

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● The high cost of not having public toilets can balance the cost of providing good ones.
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● Save space with single door direct entry stalls rather than “gang toilets”.
● Increase capacity and solve gender parity issues by making stalls unisex.
● Think public comfort station ie a place the public feels comfortable making short stops rather than an interior room for rest.
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● Site restrooms to benefit from natural surveillance by the community.
● Apply Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) in location, layout, lighting, surface, materials, fixtures and hardware.
● Protect users, especially children, from inappropriate contact with strangers in “gang toilets” by providing individual direct entry stalls.
● Design doors to ensure privacy with safety: full length with a 1.5 – 2” gap at the bottom and a lock that authorities can open from the outside in an emergency.
● Activate surrounding area with retail, information kiosks, food carts, street performers, bus stops, or parking pay stations.
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● Adhere to standards of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
● Choose unisex stalls to accommodate families and opposite sex caregivers.
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● Place sinks outside of stalls so users do not tie up toilets while hand washing.
● Make the flow of users more efficient by using unisex stalls
● Plan for restrooms that can function year round and 24/7.
● Use directional signage to restrooms, signs on facility listing hours, number to call for maintenance, etc. and print and web-based information to complement signs.
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● Focus on restrooms as positive attractors, incorporating historical artifacts, artwork, and text in the design.
● Involve users in restroom design and aesthetics as well as function.
● Give the community an opportunity to take pride in and responsibility for restrooms.
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● Use unisex stalls so individual toilets can be cleaned or repaired without closing facility.
● Choose vandal-resistant hardware and make surfaces graffiti resistant.
● Lower risk of in-stall vandalism by putting sink and trash bin outside in the open.
● Install tap for power washing and utility cupboard for supplies.
● Establish monitoring and evaluation plan for maintenance.

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