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7: Public Conveniences

WP7SideStripThe consortuim’s focus was to look at the issue of urban sustainability in the built environment, of which the provision of ‘away from home’ toilets was considered an important aspect.


Case Studies

Case studies were drawn from the central themes which were encountered. The study of Clerkenwell in London examined the issues facing an area where no public toilets are provided. The Westminster study looked at the issues facing a provider of 24 hour provisions. In Manchester VivaCity focused on the provisions in civic buildings and transport terminals as well as public toilets. In Sheffield the tensions between public and private provision were recorded. Extra case studies took place in the London borough of Richmond where VivaCity looked at the details of the local authority’s acclaimed Community Toilet Scheme. At Milton Keynes MK Centre researchers detailed the UK’s first and oldest public adult changing facility. In Cambridge VivaCity looked at the provision of new facilities specifically designed to fit into the city centre. The final two case studies from this Sustainability Issue looked at people’s campaigns to have toilets built, one a group campaign based in Nottingham and the other a single person’s campaign cased in Liverpool. Both saw the building of new public toilet facilities. 


A central aspect of the research was the development of personas as tools for architects, designers and toilet providers to assess how current and future away from home toilet provision may be improved to cater for everyone’s needs. The personas aim to represent a range of ages, abilities, faith and gender concerns regarding toilet facilities. We have also included the needs of those requiring space for adult changing, families and those who require assistance from a carer as well as the carer’s needs. Also taken into account were the concerns of young people when using away from home toilets, along with those whose disability may be hidden.

The research team and access auditor Vin Goodwin developed a ‘tool’ to audit accessible away from home toilet facilities. The tool follows design guidance laid out in 2004’s Building Regulations Approved Document M (Part M) and records 50 different points of design, layout and fittings guidelines that should be found in accessible (disabled) toilets. In total we audited 101 accessible toilets around England.

We conducted street surveys in London, Manchester and Sheffield. In total 211 people (87 men, 124 women) aged between 16 and over 65 agreed to answer our queries concerning their local public toilet provision.

In addition to our street surveys we were also passed detailed survey results from the charity and campaign group ITAAL (Is There An Accessible Loo). Our thanks to ITAAL and its members for allowing us to analyse and use this information.


From the Personas we were able to show that certain design aspects of away from home toilets were of great concern. These included non-slip flooring, larger cubicles, lighting and the provision of a shelf. Management and planning concerns were also highlighted including ensuring the bin was not placed in the transfer space.

We have collated all of the information gathered during the course of the project into a design resource for designers, architects and managers of away from home toilets. However, the resource also provides important information for communities who may be interested in improving the design of away from home toilets within their area.

Currently, toilet design follows a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy. However, our research has shown that with the range of abilities, ages and cultural considerations (family and faith aspects) represented in modern society, several different designs are required to meet the needs of the wider population.

The key findings of the research are also detailed in the tools. These include: nearly half of the people we surveyed (48%) found that the accessible cubicle lacked adequate turning space for their wheelchair. 30% of users found that grab rails were difficult to use and 94% of cubicles we audited had the incorrect configuration of grab rails.

Our resources are also available as a CD. If you would like to receive a copy of the guide, please send your details to Professor Julienne Hanson.

StoryHouseClick here for a list of Sustainability Issue Seven's Academic Publications.


Useful for Urban Design Professionals, the Inclusive Toilet Hierarchy has been able to identify a hierarchy of provision in respect of away from home toilets. This can be used to inform debates about the number and types of accessible toilet cubicles that should be provided in any particular context.

The toilet audit tool was developed in collaboration with a National Registered Access Auditor to collect data on the accessible provision that was currently available. The tool can be used by urban design professionals, local authorities and the community to ensure that toilet provision is as accessible as possible.

VivaCity2020 researchers collected a wealth of information concerning public toilet provision in urban areas around the UK, concentrating on accessibility for people with special requirements regarding toilet use.

By looking at the range of users’ needs, VivaCity2020 were able to identify a number of common requirements linked by different disabilities and needs. This led to a selection of design templates for accessible and inclusive toilets which built on recommendations from a wide range of British Standards.

Personas are a tool that the research group has developed to communicate users’ needs to the professionals involved in the design and management of away from home toilets. Each persona is an ‘archetypal user’ that has been created in collaboration with user groups involved in the research.

Surveys are a useful way to find out what people think about current public toilet provision. They may also indicate how strongly people feel about how provision meets, or fails to meet, the local community’s needs.  VivaCity2020 provides survey guidelines, an example survey and survey results.

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