29th March 2019
It is an issue that provokes fierce debate but is becoming an increasingly important decision to be made by schools. What is the best way to accommodate mixed sex and transgender pupils’ sanitary accommodation needs?
Moves to gender neutral toilets in the education and commercial sectors have been met with mixed responses. Critics suggest they are pandering to political correctness and result in some students feeling unable to use the facilities at all. Proponents argue that they provide improved flexibility, and reductions in vandalism and bullying.
Most people seem to agree that the “superloo” design, with individual, private cubicles containing WC, wash hand basin and space for coat and bag is a good solution. This is, however, a more expensive and less space efficient design which cannot always be accommodated in refurbishment projects.
The problems generally come with how these cubicles are assigned or when unisex handwashing areas are incorporated to improve space efficiency.
One practical advantage of gender neutral toilets is that less WCs are required to meet the British Standard. BS 6465-1: 2006+A12009 imposes a 20% uplift to gender-specific toilets to accommodate uneven splits between male and female users and this requirement is removed if toilets are unisex.
Ultimately, there is no right answer and every school will have to decide based on its composition, legislation, culture and future expectations.
Here is a recent example of some gender neutral cubicles with unisex hand-washing designed by Barker Associates at a school in North London.