We have commented previously in these columns about the tendency for bathroom suites, and in particular en-suites and cloakroom suites, to get smaller and smaller: and with land values and building costs remaining stubbornly high, there is no prospect of that trend reversing any time soon. Thus bathroom equipment has to be supremely space-efficient.
A new example on the UK scene is the W+W from Spanish sanitary ware manufacturer Roca, who collaborated with Italian design house Gabriele and Oscar Buratti to produce this integrated wash basin and toilet unit. It brings new features and high-end design styling to a type of bathroom unit that is already becoming popular in Japan: anyone who has used their tiny hotel ‘pod’ units or visited their houses knows that space is at a premium there.
In the W+W, a modish rectangular basin sits atop a tank, hidden in the curve of the lower section that joins sink to cistern. The sink waste water is filtered in the plughole outlet and once inside the tank, droplets of disinfectant are applied to kill bugs and deodorise the water.
This is then piped into the cistern, or any excess is diverted into the main drain. On the other hand, if there is insufficient water in the cistern to flush the (rectangular) toilet bowl, it fills from the mains water in the normal way. The grey water can reduce the typical 6-litre cistern’s usage by up to 60%, or a dual-flush 3 litre unit (even when using the economy button) by 25%.
Thus it is that the unit has a small footprint and is greener than your current arrangements.
So even though it costs a premium-priced £2,991, they have sold some 1200 units in their first 2 years, and we can expect prices to fall as other mainstream manufacturers put their own spin on the new integration/multi-purpose trend. It’s such a must-have item for ‘early adopters’, it’s surprising they didn’t call it the iFlush.
Green + Grey: a good match
When we were renovating our house four years ago we wanted to allow for re-use of grey water: we put in separated pipework for kitchen, bathroom and laundry waste water rather than having them mix with the sewage pipes. There’s passive provision for this system to be diverted for treatment. But we don’t have the scope for a reed bed, and the grey water UV-bio-filtration reclamation units were the size of a bathroom. Their price was also better suited to a block of apartments or an office, which is where their German makers were mostly aiming their units (The Germans are way ahead of us in these matters, having for some years insisted that new buildings capture and re-use their roof water, and recycle grey water in many cases).
The good news is that prices are coming down and more modestly-sized units are becoming available (but check how much water you will be treating, to specify the unit correctly). So if you are embarking on a new-build or a renovation that will require new plumbing, put in a separate grey water network of outlet pipes, and provide for the future. If you are going to re-use the cleaned grey water indoors for toilet flushing, then also allow for new inlet pipework. In the meantime, innovations like the W+W will allow you to start greening your ablutions without having to invest in new infrastructure.