Urban Restroom Design

February 20, 2009

This section of our site is an appeal to urban planners to pay more attention to ways public restrooms  enhance urban livability and to architects and engineers to rethink toilet design.

Toilet availability plays a key role in urban livability. Planning for restrooms in public areas has not, however, received the attention it deserves and has resulted in a public restroom crisis in American cities.

Although growing interest in urban livability and shared open space may be focusing more attention on public restrooms, the literature remains scant. And apart from Portland and several other locales,  the discussion – whether loud or quiet – has been fairly unproductive. This section of our website will therefore take up a number of issues that have been under-explored in relation to public restrooms.

Public Toilets for Old Town Chinatown:  A Report to the Community

phlush-report1121In their study PHLUSH Public Restrooms for Old Town Chinatown, PHLUSH co-founders Tom Carrollo, Nikki Jardin, Barb Lescher, Carol McCreary, Lan Nguyen, Christopher Yarrow discuss the pros and cons of the various options for public restroom provision in the Old Town Chinatown district of Portland, Oregon.   The group presented the results of their research to the community in February 2006.  Present at this special meeting of the Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association were representatives of City Hall, TriMet and the Office of Transportation, Portland Parks and Recreation, and the Portland Business Alliance, all groups with whom PHLUSH continues to collaborate.   Also present were a group of Portland State University students in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program, who went on to form Relief Works.

Relief Works produced the landmark study Going Public.


Later in 2006 and  using the PHLUSH report as their starting place, Relief Works provided additional detail in a professional format.  Going Public: Strategies for Meeting Public Restroom Need in Portland’s Central City was prepared for the Office of Mayor Tom Potter.   This landmark study later won a prize from the American Association of Urban Planners.  It has helped guide PHLUSH work with city agencies and others working on restroom issues.  The American Restroom Association has applauded the report and made available a high quality version for printing.

Effective public restroom planning and resources in this section.

In 2008 PHLUSH Public Restroom Design Principles were approved by the Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood Association.  Our working goal is Cost effective public restrooms that provide maximum function in minimum space and are safe, accessible, available, attractive and easy to maintain.

The PHLUSH report assesses Facility Types appropriate for Portland’s downtown: renovated historic comfort stations, buildings in restrooms, artist designed toilets, and options for porta potty use. Our thumbs down on putting Automatic Public Toilets on local streets fostered the development of the unique, efficient, solar-powered Portland Loo.

Management Options are key part of physical design and planners and architects have much to learn about human behavior and customer preference from those who manage and maintain restrooms. Of the possible approaches to financing restrooms,  many have not been adequately explored.

Restrooms should be “positive attractors” in the urban landscape.  The section. Art + Toilets discusses ways that art can be used to inspire, inform and raise awareness, including about the universal need for toilets.

Finally, there’s a list of Resources on Restroom Design and Management

Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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