For organisers of major sporting events such as the Olympics, the remit of building an Olympic village might at first seem relatively straight forward especially when it comes to the building of washrooms. In truth there is far more complexity than first meets the eye. One contributing factor to this complexity is the direction that the toilets pans in toilet cubicles face. In the recent 2012 Olympics a certain proportion of the toilets were designed so they were not facing Mecca as a deliberate part of the design, done so as not to offend members of the Muslim faith.

These small significant design points will need to be adhered to by the organisers of Rio 2016 to ensure that Muslim contestants are not facing Mecca whilst sat on the toilet, and indeed strict followers of Islam are forbidden from facing the East when they are in any lavatory facility. This can have an impact on the design of washrooms and can have an impact on costs of such venues.

Other aspects of washrooms and their design for visitors to Olympic venues are based around numbers and ratio’s as one would expect. The toilets provided for the public, the number of toilet cubicles in washrooms and the number of wash basins available in each of the washrooms are all factors to be considered. The difficulty is gauging how many facilities should be made available. At the time that the washroom designers are being consulted the numbers of people likely to attend is all based on ‘best estimate’. The balance of having enough toilets and the accompanying sanitary ware such as hand dryers, wash basins, paper towel dispensers and soap dispensers, is all in the mix.

The design for athlete’s is generally considered paramount and if areas like washrooms are not just right the ever present press are waiting to pounce  on any design misdemeanour. Stories about any errors get into the press and stories are usually blown out of proportion and the bad press can effect investment in to the venture.

The detail applied by the designers of the Olympics 2012 and especially in regard to the design consideration for the washrooms of Muslim competitors was seen as a success but did present a challenge. To ensure that the hand basins in prayers areas and that the sinks soap dispensers, paper towel and hand dryer facilities were all facing away from the direction of prayer was a challenge but one that was met with approval of multi faith groups.

The challenge for washroom designers in Rio 2016 is to follow the excellent example of London 2012 designers, ensuring that there are ample facilities; enough toilet cubicles washbasins, hand dryers, and that for those who follow the faith of Islam that they have enough toilets facing the correct way.


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