Washroom behaviour and users’ perception of ‘novel’ water efficient appliances (2004)

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This report investigates how human factors influence the water-saving potential of washroom appliances. As part of Thames Water’s Watercycle Project, different water-efficient devices were installed in washrooms and compared to standard appliances. Also, behaviour change measures were carried out. The results show significant behavioural differences between males and females. The two novel dual flush toilets and waterless urinals were well received by users. In contrast, the infrared controlled taps were found difficult to use and least accepted by customers. Information and labelling had a positive effect on conservation and user opinions.

S. Hills and R. Birks

Thames Water Research and Technology, Spencer House, Manor Farm Road, Reading, UK, RG2 0JN

Abstract A variety of washroom appliances are available which claim to be water efficient. However there are a number of “human” factors, which may adversely affect the water savings actually achieved when the appliances are installed. These were investigated as part of Thames Water’s “Watercycle” project at the Millennium Dome, where a range of water efficient devices, such as infra-red controlled taps, waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets, were installed in the washrooms and compared to standard appliances. As well as monitoring actual metered water usage, to help understand how users interacted with the range of appliances, the work also involved a survey conducted by interview and an observational study of water using behaviour in the washrooms. The results highlighted significant differences between males and females, for example females were more likely to wash their hands following toilet use. With respect to “novel” dual flush toilets and waterless urinals, both fairly unusual in the UK, they were well received by users. In contrast, the infra-red controlled taps were found difficult to use and least likely to be accepted for use in the home. Relevant signage and labelling was found to have a positive effect on conservation and user opinions.

Keywords Perception; water conservation; water efficiency

Introduction

Various washroom appliances are available which claim to be water efficient, ranging from infra-red taps to waterless urinals. However, the potential water savings may be influenced by the ease of operation of the appliance, and hence the users’ perception and willingness to accept it. The behaviour of individuals and groups in a public washroom environment may also be significant. These issues were investigated as part of Thames Water’s “Watercycle” project at the Millennium Dome in London.

Method
Set-up of washrooms
The Millennium Dome contained one of the largest in-building recycling schemes in Europe, designed to supply up to 500 m3/d of reclaimed water to flush 837 WCs and urinals, catering for over 6 million visitors in the year 2000 (Hills et al., 2001). For experimental purposes the washrooms in each of the six “core” buildings within the Dome (identified by odd numbers 1 to 11) were equipped with a variety of water-efficient devices for compari- son, ranging from infra-red taps, waterless urinals and dual-flush WCs (in the “super- efficient” core), to more conventional appliances, (in the “control” cores) which were all comprehensively metered. In two of the core buildings (the “behaviour” cores) a different amount of signage was installed to investigate the effect of information on user behaviour – one core contained extra educational messages about water saving whereas the other did not. The apparatus in these two cores gave users the chance to conserve water by their actions (i.e. using the low flush button on the dual-flush WC, turning off the taps after washing hands). Table 1 provides details of the appliances installed in the various core buildings.