Solving multiple problems at once
Up until the launch of Stormtech’s Linear Shower Channel in 1997, shower designs had followed a tried and true formula with a standard floor waste positioned in the middle of a centrally sloping floor, with all the tiles cut to fall inwards. Not only was it labour intensive and as Stormtech’s CEO Troy Creighton says, “limiting from a design perspective”, it also created another problem. This “traditional way of doing things” required a raised edge that limited wheelchair accessibility. Needing an aesthetic and functional drainage solution, two architects approached the then small-scale business, which led to the development of a product that would change the face of bathroom designs.
One of those architects was Sydney’s Ed Lippmann, founding director of Lippmann Associates. Sharing insights into the Camperdown Terrace project from 1996, Ed says: “The client was young and experimental, and happy to use anything that was out of the ordinary but practical. The whole project was an innovative interior and that formed part of the language of the space.” Extending the overall design approach to the bathroom design, Ed specified Stormtech’s then newly developed Linear Shower Channel. “It looked so aesthetically superior than having a floor waste. We’ve been using them ever since,” says Ed.
What may seem so simple and straightforward, belies the level of knowledge and skill that went into the development of this now iconic product. Originally created by Stormtech’s founder John Creighton, Troy elaborates on the process to get the Linear Shower Channel designed and into the market. “This product was the first of its kind, and it was the product that changed our business.
There was a lot of work that went in to resolving the design to be fit for use as there were no domestic shower channels at the time, which also meant there were no regulatory standards to work within. My father, John Creighton, worked closely with the Sydney water board to ensure that it would meet building standards.”
For Ed, the Linear Shower Channel offers a clean resolution for the bathroom. “In bathrooms having a floor waste in the middle of the room is a traditional way of doing things. But if you have a tiled floor, this means that you have to cut the tiles,” says Ed. Over the past 20 years, through ongoing development and refinement the sleek shower channels have allowed architects the ability to push design thinking forward for better, more seamless outcomes for their clients. “These days we often use epoxy flooring, so the cutting tiles is done away with altogether, but it’s still much nicer to have the water running away from the middle of the room – so the shower channels allow us to design in this way,” explains Ed.
Adding to this line of thinking, Troy shares: “The grate was able to solve design solutions through the fact that the shower floor could slope in a single direction – making it cleaner looking, all while allowing for different surface options. It also means that there isn’t as much wasted tile while trying to achieve it.”
Industrial design meets residential applications
Going behind the scenes into the processes of Lippmann Associates, Ed says: “When I first started my practice, my early interest in architecture was centred on moving away from handcrafted processes and into more mass producible approaches to architecture. Things can be made in a factory to incredible standards and then brought on site, essentially becoming an installation on site.
“The Stormtech Linear Shower Channel is part of that thinking, so you specify high quality components and they get put in on site. It’s all about high quality, highly detailed, high manufacturing capability. There are many practical and aesthetic reasons for working in this way.”
In addition to helping facilitate sleeker bathrooms, the industrial process is backed up by John’s intimate knowledge with the building side of things. “The product was designed to be easily installed, and easily accessed by tradesmen, which came from John having been a tradesman himself,” outlines Troy.
As a product, the Linear Shower Channel is easily specified and completely fit-for-purpose. It brings the highly detailed industrial process and manufacturing to life in a highly articulated product. That means architects are able to design highly resolved projects.
Although the Linear Shower Channel was the lynchpin product to launch the Stormtech business, it has never rested on its laurels. Troy adds: “We’ve always maintained a focus on design for access and mobility. From there we evolved the threshold drain, which was another innovation by Stormtech.”
Always striving for performance, Stormtech is able to consistently deliver due to its years of experience and ongoing dedication to R&D. “We’ve got the body of knowledge about drainage having developed the product and solved so many of the problems. Unlike a lot of other manufacturers we understand things like the volume of water that is required to be taken away, surface friction, hydraulics – there is heavy, solid engineering behind what we do,” states Troy.
Ultimately what Stormtech’s Linear Shower Channel has done is hit the nail on the head with solving not just a design problem, but a functional problem. Design wise, it creates a cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing outcome, as Ed expresses: “It is much nicer to have a single grate and make the floor fall in one direction.” From the practical aspect, it creates a seamless transition that enables a wheelchair accessible shower. And more than 20 years later, it was Stormtech that was called upon to advise on the latest standards in disability access in the building codes. What could be more impactful than that?