Lifespan is (almost) everything
When it comes to the “green”, i.e. the particularly sustainable bathroom, planning should not only focus on the economical use of water and energy, but also, crucially, on the lifespan of the new bathroom. The “ecological rucksack” plays an important role here – in other words, all the environmentally damaging factors that come into play during the raw material extraction, manufacture, transport, storage, sale and disposal of a product.
Life cycle assessments can be deceptive: the manufacturing energy of a modern new building (“grey energy”) alone can exceed its annual heating energy requirement by 100 times, ac- The “green” bathroom cording to a study by the University of Applied Sciences Burgenland (Wind / Heschl, 2008). Over time, a long service life cancels out pretty much every other eco-factor: Anything that doesn’t need to be ripped out and replaced for a long time is in itself more ecological than throwing it away and making a new one. This applies especially to the bathroom.
The lifespan of a bath is defined by various factors. On the one hand, there is the aesthetic lifespan, i.e. the time in which a bathroom is perceived as attractive in terms of wear and tear as well as aesthetics and design. Fortunately, many classic bathroom materials and products are fairly non-sensitive to typical wear and tear. Ceramic on the washbasin and toilet, stainless steel on the drain, glass or enamelled steel bathtubs, just like tiles, are exceptionally long-lasting if properly processed, cleaned and cared for. Therefore, special attention should be drawn to the other fixed bathroom objects, such as shower fittings, bathroom furniture or storage areas. The right choice of material with regard to non-sensitivity, ease of care and service life increases the overall life expectancy of the bathroom.
The visible part
When it comes to bathroom design the golden rule is: timelessness comes first. Aesthetic aberrations can actually necessitate a bathroom renovation sooner than necessary, exactly because bathroom users can “no longer see” the solution. The architecture of the house itself is another influencing factor that needs to be considered. As a general rule: a haphazard mix of styles in the house tends to limit the lifespan and reduces the value of a property. Universal design, i.e. the suitability of a bathroom for all target groups from young to old, is another factor that determines the longevity of a bathroom, because nothing needs to be converted if the user profile changes. Universally designed bathrooms work for old and young, for healthy and infirm, without the solutions appearing aesthetically restrictive.
Behind the wall
The technology behind the wall is far more relevant to the lifespan of the bathroom than questions of taste or functionality. The pipe system, together with the sealing solution under the tiles, is one of the critical points here. If there are problems with sealing or pipes, a complete renovation of the bathroom is often unavoidable. A modern and proven long-life piping system is the bath's vein system. The sealing system used, which protects the structural shell, is just as important and just as limiting for the service life.
The only thing left to consider is the energy and resource consumption of a bathroom over its useful life – and in this respect the sanitary and heating industry has a wide range of constantly optimised solutions on offer: With regard to toilet flushing, economical cisterns (dual flush technology) and matching ceramics have established themselves over the years. When it comes to washstand fittings, we know that cold water is often enough to wash your hands and that electronic fittings limit the unnecessary running of water. Air-enriched showering while avoiding the water loss associated with temperature adjustments (single-lever mixer or thermostat instead of two-handle mixer) is usually more economical than a full bath. When it comes to resource consumption the fact remains that technology helps to use heat and water responsibly. But let’s not forget that bathing should also involve a certain amount of pleasure.