flushThis post is not about the green handle and sign All This Chittah Chattah said it very well here.This photo is from there too.

I would like to draw your attention to something that is driving me crazy. You may have noticed this too.

I first saw this new way to conserve water in the Portland Airport a few couple years ago and I was really excited until I used it.

The way it works is, you the flusher choose the amount of water, power of the flush, swirl of the bowl you need, based on what you just put in it.  It's great. Most of the time you only need enough flush power to push a little extra liquid and a bit of TP. Every 5th or so time (just a guess) you need flushing power to get a lot more down the pipes.

This is were the good idea meets bad design.

When I'm in a public restroom it isn't just about performing the task of going to the restroom, most of my thoughts, decisions and movements are around the issue of staying clean and not coming into contact with anything visible or invisible that might be disgusting or unhealthy.

We avoid using our hands.  Hips, knees, elbows, feet, chins to necks and butts are all recruited to assist in the tasks of getting in the room, opening the stall door, hanging up your purse, covering the seat, working with your clothing,  flushing the toilet, getting out of the stall, washing hands, getting a paper towel, turning the faucet on and off and finally getting out of the room.

Now look at this image.  What's wrong with it?

save water

The designer wants you to pull up for less water and push down for more.  Has the designer ever used a public restroom?

I would guess that most people use their foot to activate the flush. When you use your foot, the easiest way is to bend and lift your knee and come down on the top of the lever with your foot. It's possible to lift it up with your foot but it takes more balance and some thought. I also think people would be concerned about getting the dripping water usually found on these levers on the tops of their shoes.

So what we have is a design that asks us to do the more difficult, less automatic, potentially damaging action 80% of the time. The easy, more natural, cleaner action is being assigned to the less used function.


Had the designer done just a bit of research I'm sure these two actions would have been switched.

Wait. New thought. I wonder if it was intentional because they saw problems that could arrive if the Liquid Waste function was used when the Solid Waste function should be used. Crap. Well, if this is the reason it's another example of business needs vs. users needs and is an excellent opportunity to be more creative and more exceptional in our problem solving.

ps I do acknowledge that the design maybe a result of engineering constraints but it's still bad.