The widespread drought across NSW and QLD has forced many homeowners in drought-affected areas to reconsider their water usage in the home. One surprising solution has proved highly effective: water-saving toilets.

-The toilet has to rank alongside the shower and the garbage bin as one of the most innovative, yet simple, pieces of sanitation hardware ever designed.

The notion that devices can quickly and conveniently remove human waste may sound childish to some. But the toilet is key to any modern residential bathroom design, and the value of saving water in the home cannot be understated.

Recent coverage of drought and bushfires in NSW and QLD has dominated news headlines. Now more than ever, households in drought-affected areas are looking for innovative ways to save water for essential use.

The residential bathroom forms a major component of water use in commercial properties. The United Nations estimates that roughly 50 litres of water per day are needed for each household, a figure that does not begin to factor in toilet flushing.

According to a 2019 report from the Australian Government Department of Environment and Water, “At least 25 percent of indoor residential water use is due to toilet flushing.”

“The performance issues (of some toilets) can impact on some customers in terms of amenity and the need for them to manually clean the pan with a brush.”

Average demands of water usage in toilets, showers and basins can dramatically shift the modern residential bathroom design since the installation of water-efficient appliances can be highly cost effective.

One major example is dual-flush toilets, a recent addition to the market over the past few years. These toilets offer alternating water levels – higher for solid waste, lower for liquid waste. Replacing a single-flush toilet that uses, on average, 4.5 litres of water with a dual-flush toilet not only saves nine litres of water but can also reduce water bills.

Saniflo’s Sanicompact is a recent example of a new toilet technology that has been introduced to the market.

According to the company’s website, “Where normal toilets use 4.5 litres of water in full flush and 3 litres of water in half flush, Sanicompact only uses 3 litres and 1.8 litres respectively.”

“The added benefit of this product is that you can add a powder room anywhere in your home without needing the main sewer lines nearby. The integrated macerator grinds the waste into slurry and pumps it up to 3m vertically and 30m horizontally to connect with the main sewer pipes; you can also connect a vanity basin for the complete toilet.”

Another variant of a water saving toilet is the low-flush, or the half-flush toilet. Low-flush toilets do have their advantages and disadvantages overall, and designers should take these following factors into account when planning the modern residential bathroom.

On the plus side, low-flush toilets can reduce costs to the consumer by lowering the amount of water consumption for each individual flush. These toilets contribute to preserving the environment from depletion and potential contamination from groundwater.

For a consumer looking to fit their bathroom with a low-flush toilet, having a piece of hardware that is easy to use and clean can also be a fairly persuasive factor.

Despite this, there are some disadvantages of low-flush toilets. One example of this is how some older models may require flushing more than once to adequately clean the toilet bowl. Doing so can present the risk of clogging or blocking the toilet up.

One company that has designed water-saving products intended for residential bathroom designers is Kohler. Specifically, the company’s Veil Wall-Hung Intelligent Toilet is a sustainable and innovative piece of bathroom technology.

According to the company’s website, “The Veil Wall-Hung Intelligent Toilet offers the perfect balance of form and function to encapsulate the essence of the modern intelligent toilet and the benefits and features most sought out by designers and users alike.”

Kohler’s Veil Wall-Hung Intelligent Toilet features a “rimless dynamic flushing system dispensing an exceptionally clean and efficient flush”.

For designers curious about how to replace older single or dual-flush toilets with a water-efficient alternative, it can either be done by replacing the entire toilet or switching the flush mechanism around.

Vacuum-assisted toilets also deserve a mention among the better variations of water-saving designs for the modern residential bathroom.

One of the more pressing issues with toilets is finding a solution to removing dirt and stains that can contaminate a bowl, subsequently creating hygiene and cleanliness issues in the process.

This is where vacuum-assisted toilets come into play; by forcing waste out from above, these toilets depressurise the trapway, effectively sucking waste out from below and pulling waste out of the bowl via a vacuum.

Pressalit, one of the leading manufacturing businesses focussing on specialised bathroom solutions for people with disabilities and the elderly, is also focused on improving residential bathroom designs by re-thinking the modern toilet.

According to a 2014 brochure, Pressalit designed “A solid toilet seat with stabilising buffers, which hold the seat securely in position of the toilet bowl, providing an extra sense of security when transferring a user to and from a wheelchair.”

“The area in the immediate vicinity of the toilet is central in bathrooms designed for special needs. It is important there is plenty of space around the toilet, so mobility aids can easily be moved around and any carers can avoid awkward or strenuous working positions.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete discussion of the evolution of modern residential bathroom designs without mentioning an Australian icon: Caroma.

Earlier in 2019, Caroma announced the launch of its new collection – Elvire.

According to the company, Elvire was inspired by the nature and wilderness of Australia.

“The intent was to translate and bring the Australian environment into a bathroom space. The result is a stunning and truly unique collection, targeted at the discerning consumer who seeks the very best bespoke luxury bathroom experience.”

Another range recently released is Everhard’s Artesan Series Concrete Basin range.

According to Everhard, “The Artesian Series is the perfect combination of Concrete Nation’s high-end design and Everhard’s well established legacy in the concrete manufacturing industry.”

“These two Queensland-based, family-owned companies began in concrete, but their products are completed by water. Artesian was inspired by the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest underground freshwater reservoirs in the world.”

Perhaps one of the more exciting prospects for the future of residential bathroom design is the introduction of toilets with a spray-on lubricating coating.

In a recent paper published by Penn State University researchers, the team developed a coating that not only reduces water consumption, but also lowers the prevalence of germs and odours.

The group’s aim was to develop a “liquid entrenched smooth surface”, also known as LESS.

Tests suggested that toilets with the LESS coating were able to withstand up to 500 flushes yet needed to be replaced after 50 urinations had taken place.

Writing in the Nature Sustainability journal, lead author Tak-Sing Wong notes, “Less coating is capable of reducing adhesion up to 90 percent solids and requires only 10 percent of the cleaning water required for an untreated control surface.”

“With an estimated 1 billion toilets and urinals around the world, it is anticipated that incorporating LESS coating into sanitation systems worldwide could lead to significant water saving and improved global sanitation.”

Overall, many easy-to-install toilet developments already exist on the market, with many more water-saving fixtures to be introduced in the future. It is essential that residential bathroom design evolves over time as water scarcity becomes more of a pressing issue for homeowners in rural areas.

While using the half-flush button can assist in lowering water bills, designers should pay more attention to the humble commode and how the right toilet can help Australia save water for the future.

Main Image: Kohler