We all know that we will eventually have to learn how to use the three seashells, but other than that, what will the bathroom of the future look like?
Most movies and TV shows that show a futuristic bathroom usually have the traditional bathroom that we use today with an emphasis on adding screens. I fail to believe that the bathroom will simply stay the same with the ability to watch Rick and Morty while sitting on the toilet.
To see what will probably change in bathrooms, let’s take a look at why our bathrooms are the way they are now.
Ancient Rome was one of the first civilized nations to use what we now consider bathrooms.
Just about everyone has heard about the Roman bathhouses. There were bathhouses for all classes of people, including the homeless. They were a meeting place where everyone would learn about news and gossip. In the upper-class bathhouses, much of the Senates official business was done in the bathhouse rather than in the Senate.
Rome also had the first recorded public restrooms. Just about every corner had a pot, where you could relieve yourself. The urine was collected by tanners (used to tan leather) and launderers (used to make soap).
In Feudal Japan, families had to bid for the rights to collect poop and urine. Fertilizer was in such high demand that the Emperor himself at times would artificially inflate the price of the collection so that no one house could afford to corner the market.
London probably had the most influence on why our bathrooms look the way they do today. Victorian London was crowded with many families sharing a single open floor on top of which were more floors with many more families. The basements of these buildings usually are where they would store their waste. Those who could afford it would hire someone to come in and remove the waste by shoveling it into barrels and removing them by hand. Less expensive and more common was the practice of bricking up the rooms as they became full. Many old mansions had a basement of honeycomb chambers that are still full of human waste.
Communal outhouses were often placed close to wells. All of these outhouses leaked fluids into the soil, often on purpose, and most leaked into drinking water.
In 1985, John Snow mapped an outbreak of cholera and discovered that a well had become contaminated. He single hand-idly eradicated the outbreak simply by removing the pump handle to the well. This discovery marked the first scientifically recorded case of people getting sick from the water.
It’s no wonder why London had such a high rate of diseases compared to other large cities of the time.
It was about this time that companies learned they could make money by laying pipes to supply fresh water to houses in London. The price for a single pipe that could bring water in was fairly cheap and the large crowded buildings now had sinks and flushing toilets. The best way to get rid of the water was by throwing it out into the streets. This worked for a little while, but in a matter of a year or two, London’s streets became an open sewer.
London was the first city to build a massive sewage system to get rid of this water and waste. All early sewage systems moved waste away from the city but would dump it in ponds, rivers, or sometimes in the ocean.
Local farmers began to “sewage farm” collecting waste for fertilizing purposes to use on their farms. Once again we see people benefiting from our waste.
Along with the new sewage system, we saw the first actual bathrooms. At first, the only people who had actual bathrooms were the rich. Not everyone had a spare room they could run pipes into. Because it was so new, bathrooms were usually as small as possible because they took room away from the “proper house”.
The first bathroom fixtures were custom made for what ever the owner might think they would use in their bathrooms. As more and more bathrooms became common place among the rich, builders took the most basic needs of the room and began to install them at a cheaper rate in the middle class and communal homes. These distilled bathrooms were simply a sink, a toilet, and a drain in the floor for a basic shower.
The Statler Hotel was the first hotel in America where every room was designed to have a private bathroom. This was in 1908. A group of engineers and architects worked together to design the fixtures for the hotel. This newly designed bathroom became known as the “standard bathroom”. The group began to sell these fixtures to other hotels and they formed a company that would become the modern American Standard.
American Standard currently holds a respectably large percentage of commercial bathroom fixtures all around the world. Once in Thailand, I used a “traditional” Thai toilet, which is simply a ceramic hole in the ground. This hole proudly showed the American Standard brand mark. I had to laugh because of course no one in the US ever used this type of toilet, so how could it be the American standard?
Now, as we move into modern time and into the future architects are beginning to look at the bathroom as an essential part of the house rather than a necessary evil.
The layout of the modern bathroom is beginning to change. One of the first major changes we are seeing is the placement of the toilet. Toilets are now being placed in their own separate small room. This takes up more space but is being done for two reasons. First, by removing the toilet from the bathroom, the bathroom’s functionality increases. The second reason for the separation is it dramatically decreases the travel of fecal matter. Another thing that lowers the movement of fecal matter is a bidet. Not only does the bidet free your hands from cleaning, it reduces the need for bathroom tissue. Reducing the amount of toilet paper used will increase the life of the sewage pipes and lower the amounts of clogs that could occur. This would also have a positive impact on the environment.
Showers are now being removed from the bathtub. Having a separate shower outside of the tub reduces the chance of slipping by a large number. Currently, the bathroom is where most household accidents happen, most of those in the tub. By separating the two, the chance of an accident drops.
As we look into the future, we will see more technology being integrated into our bathroom.
Having a TV in the bathroom is a luxury for our modern bathroom, but they won’t be in our future bathroom. Engineers are currently working at covering walls with a material that will allow anything to be displayed on them. What this means is the possibility that every surface of a wall in the bathroom could potentially be used to display anything that a computer or TV could.
We wouldn’t have to install a mirror. We could just activate part of the wall to give us a reflection. This reflection could be magnified on demand. It could be filtered to help us see oils and dry spots on our skin. Pinhole cameras placed all around the bathroom could give us good real time “reflections” of the back of our hair as we do it.
As we get ready for work or school, we could have our schedule displayed along with the weather and news. We wouldn’t only use these displays for news but we would also have updates that would give us information on our bodies.
Sensors in the toilet could read our waste output. A scale built into the floor could read our weight. Other sensors could accurately measure our body giving us an accurate BMI (body mass index). The tone of our skin and hair could be read. Our irises could be scanned. There is no limit to what information could be displayed to us. Much of this information would be used to help us live a healthier life style while at the same time it would be stored for our medical records.
The function of the toilet will change as well. Grey water from our showers and sinks will be collected and used in the toilet instead of going straight into the sewage system. We will see an increase of toilets that have a urine collecting system. The urine will be moved into the sewage system normally. Solid waste will be separated and excess water will be removed. The water will continue into the sewage system, but the waste will be picked up, cleaned, and used as a fertilizer.
By recycling gray water and composting our solid waste we will reduce the amount of water waste in each house by upwards of ninety percent. Water is precious and as time passes it will become more valuable until we are able to cheaply clean it better.
Did I mention that toilets would probably also be shorter? Yeah, it’s more natural and healthy for our bodies to be in a squatting position rather than sitting while doing the duty. So it will probably become normal for a toilet to be about half as tall as they currently are.
It may not be all that glamourous, but that is probably what the bathrooms of the future will look like. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Let me know what you are thinking in the comments below.