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Toilet User Surveys

Sustainability Issue 7
Potential Users: Urban Design Professionals
, Local Authorities, Community
When to use: Stage One, Exploration, and Stage Two of Urban Design Decision-Making Process

Related Tools: Inclusive Toilet Hierarchy, Toilet Audit Tool, Toilet Case Studies, Toilet Design Templates, Toilet User Personas
For more information, contact Julienne Hanson.



Local artists in Clerkenwell cast concrete WC pans for the area's Architectural Biennale in 2006 to highlight the lack of public toilet facilities in the area. (Bichard 2006) VivaCity 2020Surveys 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. Surveys can also help to identify if there is adequate support for a local campaign concerning the provision of away from home toilets. Surveys can be done face-to-face, over the telephone or through the post. In general, face-to-face and telephone surveys have a higher response than postal surveys.


Survey Guidance

When conducting surveys it is important to include as many different groups of people as possible. When enquiring about public toilets, given the nature of gendered provision equal numbers and groups of males and females should be included wherever possible.

If an area has a number of different ethnic communities, it is advised that the survey be translated so that people who do not speak English as their first language are not left out.


Survey Design

Survey questions can be open or closed. Open questions may take longer to analyse but can be a good way of identifying themes to explore in focus group discussions.

An example of a closed question would be:

Do you think there is adequate toilet provision in this area? Yes / No

An example of an open question would be:

What would make toilet facilities more comfortable for you to use?

How a survey is designed will determine how the survey can be analysed. Ideally a survey should be tested (piloted) before it is used to gather information, to ensure that the questions can be readily understood and the results easily analysed.

Quick surveys of no more than 20 questions should ensure that a greater number of people will be included in a shorter amount of time. The longer the survey takes to administer, the greater the amount of time that will be required to analyse the results. Often, such a ‘quick and dirty’ survey is sufficient to establish that the issue of public toilet provision is a major concern within a local community and to identify the main concerns voiced by local people. Some additional tips on designing a survey include:

  • When asking people to fill out the survey themselves, include an introduction explaining why the survey is being conducted and how it may benefit individual respondents.
  • Explain that the survey is confidential and do not ask for names and addresses.

  • Questions about age and gender are important for surveys about toilets, as they are one of the last public spaces that continue to be segregated by gender. However, such personal details should be asked at the end of the survey, so as to avoid causing offence at the outset.

  • Answers should be pre-coded for ease of analysis.

  • Keep questions short and clear to avoid ambiguity.

  • Avoid asking the same question twice.

  • Avoid wording questions in a way that suggests a preferred answer.

ToolsHouseClick here for a Typical Attitude Survey (Microsoft Word document, 26kb)

ToolsHouseClick here for our Street Survey Results (Microsoft Word document, 28.5kb)


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