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Waiting in line

In yesterday’s Guardian, Rose George has a go at architects – in particular at male architects. Hey, one thinks, back off, it’s the profession that should have a go not the general world.

But George’s attach is on a subject on which she is an expert – sanitation. She is writing about the cringeworthy ‘potty parity’ – the concept that there should be enough loos to ensure that women don’t have to queue longer than men.  ‘I am not suggesting sending men on a day trip with no loos, although it is an idea’, she says.

This has been an issue for a long time, and it is getting better. I remember going to a formal dinner at a major London hotel where for decades the black-tie events had been male dominated, by ‘captains of industry’. This was a media event and heavily female. Hooray, I hear you say – but not when it came to queuing for the loos.

More modern buildings certainly have better provision – but it is still not enough. Women queue; men don’t. George points out that women do spend longer in cubicles than men, and therefore they need more cubicles. I don’t know if there is any provision for this. HSE rules on toilets in the workplace for example (and the workplace is usually better than public spaces) specify how many loos there should be, and also how many urinals. But they do not otherwise discriminate between the sexes.

Men and women really are different in this respect, and designers should recognise it – but possibly without the need for looless trips.

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