Dezeen Magazine

Ideal Standard bathroom habits survey

Young people spend toilet time on Facebook, says bathrooms survey

News: the under-30s spend more time on the toilet than the over-55s – and they're checking social media rather than reading a book, according to new research on Europe's bathroom habits.

Using depth sensors and motion-mapping technology to investigate how people actually use their bathroom space, bathroom brand Ideal Standard discovered that younger people spent on average 1 minute and 39 seconds longer than on the loo than their parents' generation.

The study, which was presented this week at the ISH bathroom trade fair in Frankfurt, looked at households from Germany, France, Italy and the UK, varying from single-occupancy homes to families spanning multiple generations.

Brits were found to have the quickest morning routine at 19 minutes 42 seconds – eight minutes faster than the Germans, Italians and French, who all average just over 27 minutes.

UK households also use their bath the least, with the French taking the most baths – half of those with a separate bath in their house use it at least once a day.

The researchers also found that while 40% of people say they want a new bathroom, it usually isn't a bigger space they're after, but a better use of their existing space.

Ideal Standard then asked British designer Robin Levien to create a "profile bathroom" for each of the households in the study, combining the brand's existing products to create new spaces that meet the needs of each household.

This week we featured a shower with rain and fog settings that makes you feel like you're washing outdoors – see all bathrooms on Dezeen.

Here's the full press release from Ideal Standard:

What really goes on in the bathroom - Ideal Standard reveals findings of spy-in-the bathroom study

For most people it's a sanctuary from which even partners and family members are excluded.

And yet, for two weeks in February, nineteen people in four countries agreed to let Ideal Standard, Europe’s leading bathroom specialist, track their every brush, splash and flush in the name of research.

In a first for bathroom research, prototype motion mapping technology was installed in bathrooms across Europe to monitor bathroom behaviours. By adapting depth sensors to provide accurate 3D tracking of the human body and using two sensors in each bathroom, Ideal Standard has been able to build a detailed picture of how people actually use their bathroom space.

It's a tale of neglected baths and bidets, conflicting bathroom etiquette and maddening, illogically arranged bathroom suites.

The findings, supplemented with quantitative data gathered from 4000 people, will be revealed today at ISH 2013 in Frankfurt.

Behind the data lie some fascinating glimpses into family life: the parents who seek refuge from their families with long baths and showers; the bathrooms that double up as laundries and dressing rooms; the flatmates forced to do their ablutions in unison.

According to the findings, 40% of us crave a new bathroom, but interestingly, for the most part, it's not a bigger space that we lust after; just a space that better meets our needs.

"We started with a hypothesis that in many homes the bathroom is not used as well as it could be,” said Kerris Bright, Chief Marketing Officer of Ideal Standard International.

"The findings seem to confirm what we suspected. Renovating a bathroom often starts with excitement and ends in disappointment. It’s hard to know where to start and harder to see past the limitations of the room."

The publication of the study coincides with the launch of Ideal Standard's new marketing campaign; A Beautiful Use of Space. The campaign features a series of abstract bathroom spaces – a far cry from the usual imagery of scented candles and infinity baths looking out onto lush forests – to capture the different needs a bathroom meets in a day; invigoration, transformation, relaxation and play.

Families from Germany, France, Italy and the UK participated in the study, representing a variety of households, from single occupancy to multi-generational homes.

From Rotherham to Wuppertal; from Milan to Paris, the families agreed to let their every movement in the bathroom be captured, analysed and scrutinised by Ideal Standard researchers.

The results of the quantitative and qualitative studies will be analysed over the coming months but already some fascinating insights are emerging which will help Ideal Standard and its design teams innovate for the future.

"We conducted the study because, uniquely, our product range spans every aspect of bathroom design," said Kerris Bright. "We’ve always tried to understand how a bathroom works in totality and to think about the ergonomics of the bathroom to help our customers get the most out of their bathroom experience."

The findings are published today in a paper entitled Bathroom Behaviours; how to optimise bathroom space for modern households.

"The bathroom is a unique space in the home,” said Dr John Curran, social anthropologist and author of the paper. "It stands out from other rooms in the home because it has to meet an array of needs.

"It's a room that transforms us from one state of mind to another and can therefore mark different personas we have throughout the day. These transformational characteristics mean that the bathroom is embedded in everyday rituals – rituals that help define who we are.

"However, the design of bathrooms – the storage, fittings, aesthetic and the variation in size – means that meeting all the needs of household members becomes a challenge, all the more so in light of rapid demographic change which is seeing a rise in single person, all adult and multi-generational households and households with older people."

For each of the bathrooms in the motion mapping study Ideal Standard has set about creating a 'profile bathroom' based on insights gathered. Each profile bathroom can be considered a useful starting point when designing bathrooms for different needs.

The profile bathrooms have been developed by Robin Levien, an award winning designer.

Robin used Ideal Standard’s full product offering – the core Connect range, the elegance of Softmood, the minimalism of Strada and an extended range of water and energy efficient showers and fittings – to create spaces which meet the needs of the different types of household in the study.

"It was important to have a multifunctional approach to the products we recommended in each of the bathrooms,” said Robin. “Based on the household make up, coupled with their individual preferences, we selected a range of Ideal Standard products to offer a complete solution. To borrow from Le Corbusier’s famous quote 'a bathroom is a machine for living in' so we made them more liveable."

Editors’ notes

1 Some of the findings

Parental retreat

For parents, the bathroom represents something of a refuge from family life. Our quantitative data shows that adults in family homes spend longer in the bathroom than average and take longer baths, especially when the children in the house are under five. This was borne out by the behaviour of the parents in our motion mapping study who took longer to clean, preen and prepare themselves than others in the study.

Competing uses

And yet, whilst the bathroom can represent a place of retreat for parents, this is the group least likely to be satisfied with their current bathroom set up. They struggle with the multiple, sometimes conflicting, uses the space demands – spa, pharmacy, laundry, children’s playroom – and they are most likely to complain about clutter and lack of storage space. Again, the quantitative data is supported by qualitative evidence. The participants in our motion mapping study who made best use of their space were couples and singles.

The bathroom reclaimed

Older people living alone or as a couple were most likely to be satisfied with their bathroom, suggesting a sense of reclaimed space once children leave home. This group is able to create the largest storage space in their bathroom, despite the fact that the space needs to serve fewer people than average.

Adults only

For people living in all adult homes – for example students sharing a flat or families where the children have returned after university – the bathroom is most likely to be viewed as a purely functional space. This is the group that tends to shun long baths and relies instead on the shower. The bathroom is most likely to double up as a laundry in these homes. No one individual holds dominion in these households which means there is often pressure to do what you need to do and get out.

Do people use bidets?

Bidets are very common in some parts of Europe and much less common in others. For years bathroom designers have wondered how frequently bidets are actually used. Our motion mapping study offers only a limited glimpse into this intimate but important question. In one household the bidet was scarcely used at all during the experiment whilst in another it was used daily. Our quantitative data suggests that outside of Italy – where bidets are considered an essential part of everyday bathroom routine – the facility is used very infrequently. The French and the Brits in particular seldom use theirs.

Hot showers and cold baths

A composite analysis of all the homes in our motion mapping study suggests that baths are underused and that more and more people rely on showers for their daily bathing routine. It may be that we are coming to a time when having a bath in the main family bathroom is no longer a non-negotiable essential.

Have couples got it right?

More than any other group, couples are able to keep their bathroom spaces tidy and ordered. This may be a result of having the incentive of keeping the bathroom space tidy for the other person while not having the disruption that comes with family life – a perfect storm!

A Beautiful Use Of Space?

Based on the motion mapping study Ideal Standard Non executive design director Robin Levien, proposes a degree of reconfiguration in all cases, suggesting that a great many bathrooms are sub-optimally designed.

Who spends longest in the bathroom?

• The average person’s morning bathroom routine (shower, toilet, basin) takes 25m59s.

• Brits have by far the quickest morning routine at 19m42s – nearly eight minutes faster than the Germans (27m35s), Italians (27m33s) and French (27m11s)

• Women spend an average of 1m13s longer on the standard bathroom routine than men

• There’s nothing to choose between the genders when it comes to bathing – of those who have a bath only 36% are choosing it over a shower as part of the daily routine

• Under 30s are spending an average 1m39s longer on the toilet than over 55s – and they’re much more likely to be checking Facebook than reading a book

• UK households use their baths the least – 33% of those with a separate bath use it just a couple of times a week

• The French are the biggest bath fans – 50% of those with a separate bath use it at least once a day

• 35% of French households have no toilet in the main bathroom, while 95% of Italians have a bidet

• 18-30s want a bathroom space they can share, but showers for two get less appealing when respondents hit their 30s – by the time they hit their 50s the bathroom is a purely private space

• Germans are the least happy with their current bathrooms, while the Brits tend to be the happiest.