Paul Flowers, chief design officer of water technology brand Lixil, discusses the latest trends in bathroom design including touchless products and diagnosing toilets in this talk produced by Dezeen for today's Grohe x VDF collaboration.
Future bathrooms will incorporate touch-free technologies to make them more hygienic while toilets could analyse people's dietary deficiencies and suggest ideas for healthier eating,
"Toilets in the future may have sensors that can tell the consumers what their dietary inefficiencies are," said Flowers, who heads the design team for the Japanese group that owns brands including INAX, Grohe and American Standard.
"Toilets could even make menu recommendations, and perhaps even order stuff from supermarkets."
Speaking to Dezeen's founder and editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs, Flowers explained that the coronavirus pandemic was creating a new demand for bathroom fittings that use sensors so that users don't have to touch surfaces.
"We've seen huge interest in the last eight, nine weeks with Covid-19 for consumers looking at sensor technologies, hands-free technologies," he says in the video interview, which Dezeen filmed remotely using videoconferencing application Zoom.
According to Flowers, the appetite for touch-free bathroom fittings is increasing as workers prepare to return to offices after periods of time spent working from home.
"In the next few months the workplace is going to be a very different place, and hygiene is going to be top of the list as people integrate back into the workforce," he said.
"There's huge interest in some of these technologies that will allow people at work to navigate those spaces without contaminating surfaces." He said that completely touch-free buildings are "entirely feasible".
Amongst Grohe's portfolio of sensor-based bathroom technologies is the Sensia Arena toilet, which users don't have to touch with their hands at all.
"As you walk into the environment, the toilet lid lifts," Flowers explained. "You don't have to touch anything, it will close and it will flush itself."
During the talk, Flowers described the way in which Grohe conducts ethnographic research and works with architects and designers in order to anticipate upcoming trends and consumer needs.
One theme that the brand is exploring in its research is urbanisation.
"As more people move into the city and environments tend to become smaller, we're looking at hybrid spaces like the bathroom and the bedroom coming together," Flowers said.
"What will that mean for products? With some of our toilets, we're looking at odour absorption. As environments open up, we look at the acoustic values of showers, how we can make them quieter."
Flowers also emphasised the importance of sustainability to Grohe, describing the ways in which the brand is exploring 3D printing in order to reduce material waste in the manufacturing process, investigating material alternatives to heavy-to-ship brass faucets, and designing smart fittings that use technology to minimise water use.
According to Flowers, technology is beginning to find a place in the bathroom.
"If you use technology for the sake of it, I think it's irrelevant and it doesn't help," he said. "But I think if your insight-driven technology comes through in a product, it can be really helpful. The bathroom is slowly changing."
About Virtual Design Festival
Virtual Design Festival runs from 15 April to 30 June 2020. It brings the architecture and design world together to celebrate the culture and commerce of our industry, and explore how it can adapt and respond to extraordinary circumstances.