Durability & Privacy: Cubicles and Partitions for School Restrooms

Some design strategies never change. Others do. This is especially apparent when examining the evolution of cubicle and toilet partition design for educational facilities, from K-12 schools to large universities.

What hasn’t changed? Durability has always been critical. Schools are known to experience short bursts of heavy traffic throughout the day. These facilities also carry a possible high incidence of vandalism. Cubicles and partitions that can withstand and resist heavy use and vandalism have always been essential amenities for schools.

What has changed? Privacy and gender inclusive restrooms are gradually becoming the basis of design in education buildings, particularly institutions of higher education. This trend is not new. In fact, by 2013, 150 universities had gender-neutral restrooms installed. However, privacy is increasingly an expectation for today’s population, particularly with millennials and Generation Z.

Meanwhile, value will always be critical in school restroom design—not only through durability and increased product lifecycles but also upfront capital costs. Higher education projects, in particular, may require the balancing of budget limitations, durability and privacy. Architects and designers increasingly are challenged to find cubicle and toilet partition solutions that are durable, affordable and private. Fortunately, today’s offerings have evolved.

Optimizing for Value

Particularly discriminating education projects may require enhanced privacy, durability and design at a modest price point. In such circumstances, a European-style, engineered compact laminate (CL) system like Bobrick’s new Evolve Cubicles, can achieve the project requirements. While Evolve’s fully anodized aluminum framing system provides stability, its solid-core construction ensures moisture and impact resistance.

Compared to costlier European-style cubicle systems, a value-optimized system like Evolve can satisfy design requirements at a far more accessible cost.


For schools, maintainability and product lifecycle costs are critical, as operating and capital budgets may be limited. So long-term performance that minimizes repair and maintenance expenses is particularly desirable in cubicle or toilet partition systems.

For heavy traffic educational facilities where design and privacy may be less important, solid color reinforced composite (SCRC) products, such as Bobrick’s Traditional SierraSeries®, deliver optimized performance with some privacy options.

One of the primary benefits of SCRC is that the material is a solid color throughout, which means gouges and scratches can be sanded out. It also has a graffiti-resistant surface with high resistance to scratches and dents. SCRC is also water-resistant, so it can be “hosed-down” for cleaning and it offers a Class B ASTM E 84 Interior Wall Finish Classification and a 25-year warranty.

In addressing the unique challenges of educational facilities—namely graffiti- and scratch-resistance. SCRC has performed particularly well under the ASTM D 6578 graffiti resistance test (all nine marks were removed from SCRC) as well as the ASTM D 2197 scratch-resistance test (SCRC did not scratch under 10 kilograms of weight).

These values have been on display at Strasburg High School in Colorado for almost two decades. In 2004, it was clear that its original wood partitions, then over 50 years old, needed to be replaced. Bobrick SierraSeries® partitions were installed in an overhead-braced mounting configuration. Since then, the panels haven’t required any major treatment or repairs. Read more >


Privacy is no longer just a trend—it is rapidly becoming an expectation across a range of building types, schools in particular. The trend of all-gender restroom design underscores the scale of the privacy issue. Facilities that ensure transgender individuals have a safe, private restroom available to them are creating an atmosphere of inclusivity and reducing legal liability, especially in areas and buildings where laws have passed.

Consider the map below reviewing legislation regulating gender-inclusive restrooms:

A number of states and municipalities have passed laws that protect transgender individuals and others who wish to use the restroom of their choice within public and government facilities, while many others have introduced legislation that is currently pending.

California is one of the states that is leading the way in gender-inclusive design and has passed laws regarding gender-inclusive bathrooms. In fact, many California facilities have adopted them, regardless of whether they were required to by law. In some educational facilities, privacy may be the primary design requirement, especially in all-gender restrooms in dorms, libraries and other spaces that multiple genders occupy.

Design professionals today have a range of cubicle and toilet partition solutions at their disposal when it comes to education restrooms. When privacy, durability, value or all of theses attributes are critical, Bobrick has your solution.

Reach out to your Bobrick architectural representative about Evolve Cubicles or Traditional SierraSeries® SCRC.

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Designing for Authentic Sustainability

When architects are tasked with envisioning a brand new, potentially LEED®-certified building, it should be designed with sustainability in mind every step of the way. Not only is it friendlier to the environment, but sustainable operation is closely linked to economical operation, providing architects with opportunities to support their clients’ long-term business goals and develop positive relationships.

A 2015 study showed a statistical link between tenant satisfaction and sustainability efforts involving cost savings from energy and other forms of conservation. In addition, a study conducted in 2017 revealed that nearly one in 10 millennials would quit their jobs if they found out their current employer was not sustainable. Working toward authentic sustainability isn’t just good for the environment—it’s good for business, too.

There is strong demand for sustainable restrooms, and to achieve authentic long-term sustainability, architects and designers must consider a variety of factors and solutions.

Soap Dispensers

Specifying the appropriate soap dispenser can greatly affect sustainability goals. Excess waste from proprietary soap cartridges limits purchase choice, and such systems can lead to difficult maintenance. Streamlined, top-fill designs that simplify maintenance and utilize jug soap also improve efficiency substantially. In addition, dispensers that utilize foaming hand soap allow for greater hand coverage, reducing product waste and achieving the ideal hand wash without excess resource consumption characteristic of liquid soap.

Paper Towel Dispensers

Paper towel dispensers are another common source of inefficiency. Many roll paper towel systems produce what is known as a “stub roll” at the end of each roll. This stub roll will comprise a portion of unused paper towels that typically gets discarded, and the accumulation of stub rolls leads to excess waste. However, some units are equipped with stub roll utilization functionality, ensuring that every roll goes its furthest, providing complete consumable usage at less replacement time.

Dispensers without portion control features are also culprits of excess paper towel usage, allowing patrons to use more towels than necessary. Specifying dispensers with adjustable pull lengths and portion control features can curb wasteful behavior.

Folded paper towel dispensers, while sometimes less sustainable, can be equipped with accessories that eliminate handful dispensing to ensure one towel dispense per use.

Hand Dryers

While hand dryers solve many sustainability challenges, other factors come into play. For example, wattage and functionality of hand dryers, and other accessories, can lead to high energy costs, reducing their impact—especially high-speed hand dryers. However, recent innovations yield wattages as low as 200 kW (0.2 watts) and longer life expectancies. It is essential to take a holistic approach to hand dryer selection. Before specifying, consider the needs of the building occupancy in concern with performance features.

Touchless Accessories

Touchless accessories have virtually become standard to sustainable restroom design, due to their hygienic function and ability to minimize water and consumable usage. However, energy requirements, such as batteries and AC power usage, should be considered during specification. It is important to note that there are two types of hands-free sensor: infrared and fiber optic. Infrared may result in wasted water and soap, while fiber optics tend to be more reliable.

Communicating the Value of Sustainability

As the key decision maker in product specification, it is standard to provide support materials such as Building Information (BIM) analyses, technical data and compliance documentation to support specification decision. This is important because individuals from stakeholders like contractors and facility managers can challenge your selections. Energy savings should be outlined and communicated right off the bat.

Architects will likely engage with a manufacturer’s representative, who can provide support in communicating the benefits of chosen products. These representatives can serve as consultative educators, providing resources to help specifiers defend their choices.

Today, innumerable building products are marketed as “sustainable.” Authentic, long-term sustainability should be considered just as important, if not more, than sustainable materials used in manufacture or any other factor address by LEED. Understanding and communicating the operating value of each product, including measurable cost and resource savings, can be the deciding factor in securing the specification. By considering strategies beyond those typically associated with green building, architects can achieve their design vision and make it last.

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Between changes in patron preferences and new legislation, free feminine products are increasingly seen as a necessity.

Today, public schools in particular are using free feminine product vendors to support the health and comfort of female students while reducing absentee rates. Even some private facilities and retail establishments are using free vend products to build stronger connections with and show concern for their customer base. Manufacturers have a responsibility to fulfill these needs with product options—and Bobrick has done just that.

The prospect of offering free feminine hygiene products may strike concern for some facility owners who consider the long-term cost of consumables like tampons and sanitary pads. Thus, many facilities are considering token-vend products to provide this valuable service while also controlling the rate of consumption.

As laws and preferences prompt specifiers and facility managers to consider free sanitary napkin/tampon vendors, Bobrick has reacted to the trend with an unmatched selection of free-vend solutions, including new token-vend products to meet the needs of cost-conscious facilities.

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*Map last updated on 04/08/2019

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Equity Legislation

In an effort to improve student health, reduce absentee rates and promote focused learning, several states and municipalities have enacted legislation requiring free feminine care products in public schools.

In 2016, New York City passed a legislative package making free feminine hygiene products available in all city public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. In 2017, the Illinois State Legislature passed a law requiring bathrooms in schools with grades 6 through 12 to make tampons and sanitary napkins available at no cost.

In 2018, a new law took effect in California requiring public schools serving grades 6 through 12, where 40 percent of students fall below to poverty line, to stock at least half of their bathrooms with free feminine products—approximately 4,000 schools meet this criteria, including about 12,000 students within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

(Click to enlarge)
Infographic courtesy of the
Free the Tampons Foundation

Meanwhile, a Wisconsin legislator has reintroduced a bill that would make free tampons and sanitary napkins a requirement in restrooms in government buildings.

With other states and municipalities currently considering similar legislation and social movements, such as Free the Tampons, gaining traction, one thing’s clear—the free vend is gaining steam.

Promoting Dignity & Health

While current legislation has chiefly affected public schools and other public facilities, it’s worth noting that oftentimes, changes like these tend to eventually find their way into the state building code, which covers privately-owned commercial facilities.

Thus, architects and designers striving to achieve inclusive or universal design principles, may consider free vend solutions to not only satisfy the law but also create a more inclusive patron experience.

Any facility looking to meet the expectations of its female user base should consider how common it is for U.S. women ages 18-54 to have their period begin unexpectedly in public. The following survey results are courtesy of the Free the Tampons Foundation:

  • 86 percent of women need access to supplies while in public
  • 34 percent went home immediately to get feminine supplies.
  • 48 percent only carry feminine hygiene products when expecting or experiencing their period.

These takeaways underscore the importance of increasing public access to feminine care products—when users don’t have the supplies they need readily available, work and school attendance can suffer.

The Value of Free

Some designers and facility managers may consider potential long-term operating costs when entertaining free vend solutions. However, studies show that users take the products they need and no more. In facilities where free vend has been introduced, users consume less than two products per year, on average. As most women have a preferred brand, the free product is viewed as a “last resort” for unplanned events only.

Further, since 2017, several states have already exempted menstrual care products from sales tax, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. In addition, the following states are exempt from all taxes related to menstrual care products: Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

For operators, this underscores the cost-benefit of implementing free-vend—in most cases, the service benefit will far outweigh the cost of consumables. That’s why Bobrick has reacted to the free-vend trend with an unmatched selection of free- and token-vend products.


A Helping Hand for Dryer Selection:

How to Specify the Right Hand Dryer

Choosing the right hand dryer can facilitate a range of benefits for facilities. It can be the finishing touch that ties together a restroom’s high-end aesthetic, align with a facility’s goal of being ADA-complaint and help create a healthy, hygienic environment. A great hand dryer choice can also facilitate significant long-term cost savings for the owner while reducing the impact of the restroom on the environment.

Every building project—and every restroom—has unique needs. Your hand dryer specification should reflect those needs and provide added value to the owner, thereby strengthening your relationships and ensuring that the intent of your design endures.

Consider Owner, Building Type & Occupants

Each building type has unique requirements and needs that hand dryers can support. Before specifying a hand dryer, ask yourself:

  • What kind of building is it?
  • Who will be using it?
  • What kind of traffic must it serve?
  • Which benefits can best serve these goals? (i.e. noise level, hygiene or design)

Thus, building type can help you form a baseline for your hand dryer specification. Consider the following building types and their requirements before choosing a hand dryer.

Prestige Buildings

Examples: Corporate headquarters, Class-A offices, iconic civic centers, major universities, concert halls, upscale properties, corporate headquarters

Characteristics: Clean, high-end design, hygiene and cleanliness

Critical Features

  • High-end design: For prestige buildings, supporting the facility’s high-end aesthetic should be your top priority when choosing a hand dryer. Look for stainless steel finishes, clean forms, and, if budget and wall construction permits, recessed installation.
  • Hygienic operation: One common drawback of many hand dryers is their tendency to splash water onto the restroom floor, wall or even the patron. Not only are these puddles unhygienic, but also they can create serious fall hazards. Look for models with design elements that absorb or catch excess water, which also can significantly reduce janitorial workload to support economical operation.
Standard Use Buildings

Examples: Commercial office facilities, healthcare centers, hospitality projects, manufacturing plants, retail spaces

Characteristics: Moderate traffic, modest budgets, compliant objectives, pleasant environment

Critical Features

  • Low noise: Since so many standard use buildings are places of work, learning and commerce, it’s critical that the hand dryers help maintain a pleasant, low-noise environment. Many popular hand dryer brands can operate as high as 86 measured decibels (dBA); consider models that operate at 72 dBA or lower to maintain a pleasant atmosphere conducive to productivity, learning and interaction.
  • Accessibility compliance: Since so many standard use facilities—especially healthcare facilities—must serve people of very different ages and abilities, supporting accessible design objectives is critical. 2010 ADA Standards require that restroom accessories installed with leading edges between 27 inches and 80 inches above the floor must protrude no more than 4 inches maximum into a circulation path. Look for hand dryers that satisfy the 4-inch protrusion requirement.

“Nice to Have” Features

  • Contemporary design: If budget permits, find a model with an aesthetically pleasing design that harmonizes with the restroom’s aesthetic. In fact, many hand dryers with distinctive designs and stainless steel finishes are available within many standard use clients’ desired price range.
Heavy Traffic Buildings

Examples: K-12 schools, shopping malls, amusement parks, recreation facilities, transportation centers, airports, stadiums, restaurants

Characteristics: Periods of heavy traffic and usage, high facility operating costs

Critical Features:

  • Low wattage: When it comes to energy costs, years of consistent, heavy traffic can add up. Seek out a low-wattage jet dryer that can support high traffic flow without driving up the facility’s energy costs. While some leading brands operate as high as 1.7 kW, Bobrick’s InstaDry™ Surface-Mounted Hand Dryer operates as low as 0.2 kW, facilitating to up to 80 percent savings on annual operating costs. Further, low wattage dryers can also achieve an effect of “accelerating savings”—the more they’re used, the more the facility saves. Finally, many heavy traffic facilities have lofty sustainability goals, and a low wattage dryer can help support that, too.
  • Lifespan: Facility managers at high traffic facilities have enough to worry about—hand dryers breaking down on a regular basis shouldn’t be one of them. By investing in a hand dryer with a long lifespan, the replacement cycle is reduced and the facility spends less money and time replacing units.

“Nice to Have” Features

  • High-end design: If budget allows it, a hand dryer with high-end aesthetics can help heavy traffic facilities project a high-end image.

Have a project that requires a smart hand dryer specification? Find Bobrick solutions in our Complete Hand Dryer Range brochure.

Download Bobrick’s Complete Hand Dryer Range brochure to put these insights into action!
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Solutions for a Multigenerational Market

Recent demographic and social trends have increased demand for multigenerational design in the commercial building environment, and the restroom offers many opportunities for designers to cater to a full spectrum of generational challenges.

Rising demand for accessible design, family-friendly amenities, hygiene, and privacy all place the onus on architects and specifiers to provide solutions that better serve an increasingly diverse range of restroom patrons. Multigenerational solutions are not just good manners—they are also good business.

Note: This infographic does not constitute a comprehensive guide to ADA, ICC or ANSI compliance—for complete information, we invite you to download our The Continuing Architect course, Multigenerational Public Restroom Design and review full ADA, ICC/ANSI standards and local building codes.

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