Commercial Building Owners Target Common Foe in COVID-19 Safety: Public Restrooms

Commercial Building Owners Target Common Foe in COVID-19 Safety: Public Restrooms

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, most office buildings, education facilities, restaurants, bars, and other commercial properties emptied, leaving operators with the task of figuring out how to make their buildings pandemic-safe in time for their eventual reopening. In most of these buildings, a common focus of retrofit efforts was the bathroom. For instance:

  • Many bathrooms were scaled down to accommodate just one person instead of multiple.
  • Urinals were removed and often replaced with single-toilet stalls.
  • Handled faucets and toilets were replaced with higher-value touchless versions to reduce the number of surfaces restroom users touch, and thus limit the potential spread of disease

In 2020, demand for plumbing products in commercial renovations helped mitigate the severe losses seen in new construction. In 2021, as more people go back to work and the pandemic continues to affect daily life, more commercial buildings will undergo such renovations.

The Public Restroom of the Future Will Be Smart

In the wake of the pandemic, use of smart technologies in public restrooms is expected to grow, not only to improve the operational efficiencies of commercial buildings – including their plumbing systems – but also to ensure these notoriously icky spaces remain as hygienic and sanitary as possible in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Even before the pandemic struck, investment in smart technology was increasing in the commercial building sector. For example:

  • In January 2020, TOTO, in partnership with Georgia-Pacific’s GP PRO, unveiled the “Public Restroom of the Future” at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US.
  • The Smart, Fully-Connected Restroom System features TOTO's EcoPower flush valves and faucets, as well as IoT technology developed by GP PRO that monitors product usage, jams, outages, and leaks, and alerts custodial staff to housekeeping and maintenance issues in real time.

Going forward, use of smart technology in plumbing products will continue to rise from a small base, boosting market value. However, as the high cost of these products is prohibitive for the vast majority of global end users, penetration is expected to remain limited.

Nonresidential Plumbing Products Demand to Rise 2.8% Annually Through 2024

Global nonresidential demand for plumbing products is forecast to reach $21 billion in 2024, according to a new Freedonia Group analysis. Despite weakened global nonresidential building construction activity and a subsequent decline in demand in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market is expected to rebound in 2021 as case numbers fall, economies reopen, and building activity nearly returns to pre-pandemic levels. Through 2024, gains will be supported by:

  • growth in nonresidential building construction spending, particularly in the Asia/Pacific region, by far the world’s largest market
  • rising nonresidential remodeling as commercial and institutional spaces retrofit for COVID-19 safety with touchless fixtures, faucets, and other products
  • expanding access to water delivery and sanitation networks in developing markets
  • government mandates or incentives for the adoption of water-efficient fixtures, which typically cost more than other types, in many countries

Regional Market Trends in Nonresidential Plumbing Products

Through 2024, the Asia/Pacific region will continue to account for the largest share of nonresidential plumbing products demand, supported by:

  • sustained growth in nonresidential construction in China, the world’s largest plumbing product market
  • rising incomes and expanding government efforts to improve access to formal housing and sanitation facilities in India

Meanwhile, in mature markets, new construction and improvement trends will affect the market:

  • In North America, the protracted recovery anticipated in new nonresidential building construction will hinder growth.
  • In Western Europe, growth in nonresidential building construction activity will drive a rebound in plumbing product sales.

Want to Learn More?

Global Nonresidential Plumbing Products, a spin-off of Global Plumbing Products, is now available from The Freedonia Group.

About the Author:

Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.