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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Plan for future, efficiency with your bathroom design

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

American consumers are choosing a little bit of luxury mixed with practicality and efficiency when it comes to bathroom remodels.

That is according to The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Design Trends Survey, compiled from surveying 500 architects to find the most popular design features across the country.

Changing the lighting and fixtures in your home is, surprisingly, one of the last steps toward achieving a net-zero home.

Here is what the survey found as the top bathroom remodel trends:

1. Water-saving toilets

A water-saving toilet was No. 1 in the latest survey report.

Standard toilets use about five gallons (20 liters) per flush. Since a normal person flushes a toilet seven or so times a day, you can see that a family of four consumes more than 140 gallons per day by flushing alone. Sources vary, but it is generally calculated that the water consumption of toilets represents between 30 percent to 50 percent of the water consumed by a household each day.

Water-saving toilets, on the other hand, use only 1.6 gallons per flush. This represents a dramatic savings — something like 100 gallons per day per household.

For a city, a big reduction like that means no need to construct new reservoirs and new sewage-treatment plants, saving citizens'' tax dollars. That's a double incentive to replace our toilets.

Add in the ecological benefits, and it is hard to resist making the change.

2. Radiant heated floors

Radiant heated floors are popular in the bathroom for the same reason we buy slippers and giant bath mats: no one likes to step on ice-cold tile floors.

An electric radiant system consists of a mat embedded with thin heating cables, like the wires in an electric blanket, which is installed under the flooring — usually ceramic tile.

This is a low voltage system that does not consume a lot of energy. It requires a dedicated 15- to 20-amp GFCI-protected circuit to power the system.

Hydronic radiant floors (heat provided by warm water pumped through plastic tubing under the flooring) are a more traditional approach.

If you are adding radiant-heated floors to the whole house, a boiler will be required; smaller systems can use a water heater for the heat source.

Replacing forced air heating in your home with radiant heat can save up to one-third of your heating bill, though the initial cost of the system can be four to five times the cost of a forced-air furnace.

3. Accessibility/universal designs

With the aging baby boomer generation, it is not surprising that universal design is on the list.

"Universal" design means a home is welcoming to everyone, no matter what their situation.

It includes such features as a no-step entry, wide doorways and halls, and main floor facilities for the activities of daily living.

Whether you are anticipating aging in place, remodeling your home to accommodate an aging parent or disabled family member, or just want to make your home visitable for everyone, there is a growing demand for this design approach.

The most common universal design bathroom features are wheelchair accessible showers, lever faucet handles, lever door handles and a sink with knee space below.

4. Curbless showers

Most showers have a 4-inch curb at their entry point designed to keep the water from flowing out onto the bathroom floor.

A curbless shower depends on the sloping shower floor to direct water to the drain, thus providing easy access to the shower for those with ambulatory restrictions or those in a wheelchair.

5. LED lighting

Energy efficient lighting has come a long way. LED lighting is extremely energy efficient (using two to 10 watts of electricity), it's mercury-free, and it lasts up to 10 times longer than incandescent lights.

Although LEDs are expensive, the cost is recouped in energy savings and the long lamp life.

This survey demonstrates that consumers are doing their homework and are planning for the future. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 2010 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.

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