The bathroom in a box

The bathroom in a box

An Australian-designed compact bathroom appliance enables the toilet and all sanitary fixtures to disappear from the bathroom, revolutionising bathroom design. Adelle King reports.

Growing populations, energy resource issues and rises in house prices are affecting how homes are being designed and built. According to The Australian, unpublished Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows the average new home in Australia in 2016 was 192m2 compared to 222m2 in 2009.

As the size of homes decrease and more people move into small apartments, terraces and townhouses, there is a need for space efficient bathroom appliances that will revolutionise bathrooms the same way washer/dryer combinations did for laundries, particularly in high population density cities.

This is the idea behind the Australian-designed UB1 product from Sydney-based UNIQ Bathrooms. UB1 is a bathroom appliance that provides up to three fixtures in one, concealing a retractable toilet and basin with no taps or accessories, as well as an optional shower.

“We saw the need to rationalise the design of bathroom components and find ways to prefabricate, optimise space and reduce the costs of the most expensive part of the house,” says UNIQ Bathrooms director Malcolm Carver.

“In a traditional bathroom, each fixture takes up dedicated space with little duplication and we saw that bathrooms needed an appliance to become more affordable and space efficient.”

UNIQ Bathrooms has designed a toilet and basin that can be folded away so all sanitary fixtures, including the taps and accessories, are concealed flush within the bathroom wall or under a vanity bench. Malcolm says this means each function of the bathroom can be carried out using the same 1m2 space.

“We tried to change the whole concept of what a bathroom is by decluttering the space so that the room enables multi-functional uses.”

There are three appliance models available, the UB1, which is a combined basin and toilet, the UB2, which is the toilet alone, and the UB1+S, which is the combined basin and toilet with plumbing for a remote shower head.

All three units discharge waste into an existing 100mm sewer pipe connection in the wall or the floor, with hot and cold water inlets similar to those required for a dishwasher installation. The remaining plumbing is all contained within the appliance, with the exception of the optional flexible pipe to the shower head mode.

The sewer trap to the toilet is a patented rotating ‘R’ trap that Malcolm says is similar to an S trap but with a hinged joint, sealed with ‘O’ rings that close in a V shape to provide the required water seal.

There are hand sensors in lieu of taps, with built-in overflows to the basin and cistern, while the water flush system is similar to a traditional 6/3L dual-flush cistern. However, because the toilet system moves and returns back into the unit at an angle, there is a water sealed gasket lid to ensure water doesn’t get out.

“The sealed gasket lid and the V trap water seal eliminate any chance of smell from sewer pipes,” says Malcolm.

A thermostatic valve controls water temperature and the shower model has a sensor on/off operation with temperature adjustment and timer control. The basin is activated by hand and the toilet is opened and closed by a remote controlled unit with a 12V motor.

The UB1 and UB1+S are the same size as a standard dishwasher (the UB2 is smaller), making handling, transport to site, servicing and replacement easy. It also means the units are able to sit flush with walls or cabinets.

“Kitchens and laundries are far more advanced than bathrooms and benefit from having appliances and modular construction with services contained in cupboards for easy access. We wanted to create something similar for bathrooms and came up with the UB1, which is effectively a ‘bathroom in a box’,” says Malcolm.

As space in cities becomes increasingly limited, UNIQ Bathroom’s UB1 provides a new option for bathrooms that is space efficient and adaptable to future upgrades.

“Bathrooms today are the most expensive component of a house and normally configured in an ad hoc arrangement of individual fixtures. These each require dedicated space to function. They also need expensive, labour intensive water proofing and tiling, with fixed concealed services in walls and floors,” says Malcolm.

“While prefabricated bathrooms are becoming more common and favoured by builders, they still waste space. We’ve developed an appliance that will enable more space efficiency in the most expensive part of the house, which leads to less tiling, waterproofing, lighting and ventilation, and therefore major cost savings.”

According to a report by international cost consultants Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), the UB1 can achieve cost savings of up to 40%, as well as reduce bathroom space by up to 66%.

These savings have been recognised internationally and the UB1 has received seven international design awards, including the ISH 2017 Design Plus Award at the ISH International Fair in Frankfurt, Germany.

“We think the UB1 solution is the beginning of a real change in bathrooms and an exciting new paradigm in contemporary bathroom design innovation,” says Malcolm.

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