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 -
Default Image
Default Image
Default Image
Default Image
Default Image
Default Image
● The high cost of not having public toilets can balance the cost of providing good ones.
Default Image
● 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.
Default Image
● 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.
Default Image
● Adhere to standards of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
● Choose unisex stalls to accommodate families and opposite sex caregivers.
Default Image
● 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.
Default Image
● 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.
Default Image
● 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.

A Recap of the U.S. WASH Convening: Part I

In early May, Ashley and Genevieve traveled cross-country for a whirlwind week in Washington DC at the inaugural United States WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Convening! We’d like to thank our friends at DigDeep and Water For People for putting this incredible conference together, including funding for travel and lodging…


The Importance of Inclusive Restroom Signage

Professional photographer Mark Chester did not intentionally find the issue of inclusivity in restroom access - the issue found him. Chester began photographing restroom signs 12 years ago. In conducting this work, Chester began pondering the relationship between signage and inclusivity. What he found is that the barriers to equitable…


Tips for Creating a Successful Family Emergency Plan

  The scariest thing about natural disasters is that they can happen out of nowhere so you need to be prepared. Does your family know what to do if a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire erupts around your home? In addition to creating an emergency response kit, an emergency plan is…