New build ­– the bathroom perspective

Milena Cox, marketing manager at Farmiloes, explains what housebuilders should consider when planning the bathroom

Whatever the house price point, the bathroom continues to be a key selling point. In the affordable/first time buyer housing sector, housebuilders face the inevitable question of how much space to allocate to the bathroom. When it comes to mid and upmarket homes, meeting the expectations of buyers in terms of luxury and innovation is yet another challenge to be met. Add to that the need for water and energy conservation as well as the lifetime homes standard recommendations, housebuilders face a number of dilemmas.

Bathroom manufacturers have stepped up to the mark, offering cleverly designed space saving products for where best use of space is vital, as well as a plethora of design-led and sophisticated collections to create ‘dream’ bathrooms. Housebuilders can expect to find ranges that not only excel in terms of style and design, but also perfectly meet environmental requirements and the lifetime homes standards.

While costs have to be a major consideration, there are plenty of well- designed affordable products for starter homes that will add to the desirability and therefore selling potential. Typically there will only be room for the basic bath, basin and WC combination, but with showers no longer regarded as a luxury by most consumers, its inclusion is increasingly considered a necessary added extra. With a variety of reasonably priced and quality products in the market place, the addition of a shower solution should not be deemed prohibitive anymore. Short projection basins, WC and compact bath tub options can make even the tiniest bathroom appear roomier and therefore more attractive.

Housing developed for the mid-market has to appeal to a more design-savvy consumer. Style is paramount but tempered by the need for practicality and the realities of daily use. In this respect the choice of materials is key. Homeowners want bathrooms that are easy to maintain, clean and that will stand the test of time, making traditional materials such as high glazed ceramics and steel baths more relevant than ever in terms of quality, durability and hygiene.

When it comes to style, Middle England retains its love of Victorian and Edwardian design although market share has stabilised to a fairly low, albeit constant level as European influenced clean lines and contemporary looks become increasingly popular.

In this context, back to wall and wall hung sanitaryware is finally becoming more popular, although the British still have a fear of concealed cisterns, worrying about access if anything goes wrong. These days the leading manufacturers of in-wall flushing technologies have developed extremely robust systems that are very easy to access for repair and maintenance if required, without the need to remove tiles or open walls, so there is no need for concern.

Top end, the sky is the limit. There are currently an impressive number of the world’s best designers creating bathroom collections for the leading manufacturers. The potential of these luxury applications is almost limitless. Technologically advanced showers and taps, external connectivity using tablets, phones and apps and sophisticated wellness systems for the personal spa are all key elements of acceptable luxury. Basins and baths are almost sculptural in concept. On the other hand, seamless flush to floor shower areas combine maximum functionality with optimum hygiene and sleek design. Bathroom furniture is as stylish as that chosen for living rooms and taps can be bespoke. Advanced manufacturing processes and innovative materials raise bathroom products in this sector to a whole new level of finesse, and comfort, quality, imaginative uniqueness and innovation are the overriding criteria.

However – and it’s a pretty big however – when planning any new bathroom, building and safety regulations, energy and water saving requirements, flexibility and accessibility issues all need to be taken into consideration. For new build, the Code for Sustainable Homes establishes very specific water usage targets and therefore a bath’s water capacity, shower and tap flow rates and WC flushing performance are very important aspects of bathroom planning, as is the overall energy consumption.

Size is money when building, particularly when developing a block of flats. In this context, one of the biggest bathroom layout challenges is to identify and specify washbasins that do not protrude into an activity space by anything greater than 200mm.

How quickly and easily can the housebuilder find the best and most efficient water saving WC, stylish water-saving taps, thermostatic showers that will conserve hot water but still provide a great showering experience and products that will conform to Doc M and BS8300 regulations but don’t sacrifice good looks because of the need for practicality?

To save time, money and hassle, look for manufacturers and companies with people that can provide in-depth knowledge of the main leg- islation, codes of practice and guidelines into practical planning solutions who will also be able to show and supply the products and equipment needed to not only meet regulations but also your own design criteria.

It also may be beneficial to both sides to call in your bathroom ‘expert’ as early in the building process as possible, in order to accommodate any special plumbing or electronic requirements. The future is bathroom expert and housebuilder/ developer working in partnership, to create a mutually beneficial relationship which will reap rewards in terms of joint business profitability and complete end-user satisfaction.