Wel­come to the hi-tech bath­rooms of the fu­ture

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Self-clean­ing sinks, chem­i­cally al­tered bac­te­ria-bust­ing wa­ter swish­ing around the loo, and baths that can be pro­grammed to fill up while you’re on your way home. Th­ese fan­tas­ti­cal-sound­ing bath­rooms of the fu­ture use tech­nolo­gies that are avail­able to­day – and in some cases they are trick­ling down to main­stream homes and bud­gets.

Ja­panese com­pany Toto has been at the fore­front of clean­li­ness tech­nol­ogy for decades. In the UK, it is best known for its Wash­let, an elec­tronic show­erlava­tory (or bidet seat, as it’s some­times known) with an au­to­mated wash­ing and dry­ing noz­zle. Its lat­est model, the RX, features a sen­sor-op­er­ated lid and heated seat for ul­ti­mate hands-free com­fort when us­ing the loo.

Even the ce­ramic pan upon which the Wash­let sits has a great deal of in­no­va­tion be­hind it (it can be bought sep­a­rately and topped with a “nor­mal” lava­tory seat). The pan features an ul­tra-smooth glaze that stops tiny par­ti­cles of dirt and bac­te­ria cling­ing to it, and a rim­less de­sign that shoots flushed wa­ter, tor­nado-like, around the bowl. The lack of a rim means there’s one fewer place for germs to lurk, plus it’s more economical with wa­ter us­age, and qui­eter too.

“Th­ese features are not niche. Every toi­let should have the ba­sic cri­te­ria of hy­giene, high per­for­mance and low noise,” says Floyd Case, Toto’s UK projects and brand­ing man­ager. How­ever, move up the scale and the tech­nol­ogy gets more so­phis­ti­cated.

Some of Toto’s mod­els will mist the pan with elec­trol­ysed wa­ter, which has had a cur­rent passed through it, chang­ing its chem­i­cal make-up to give it more power as a dis­in­fec­tant, break­ing down waste.

Top-of-the-range loos have a pho­to­cat­alytic coat­ing: a layer of ti­ta­nium diox­ide that de­com­poses dirt. Be­cause the dirt-killing re­ac­tion only works with ex­po­sure to light, they have a UV beam in­side that turns on when the lid closes. The tech­nol­ogy is bor­rowed from the com­pany’s wider cor­po­rate re­mit as a de­vel­oper of in­dus­trial coat­ings, which are used on the façades of build­ings to keep them clean. “We’ve taken a tiny bit of that tech­nol­ogy and put it in the toi­let to help kill bac­te­ria,” says Case.

Any­thing that re­duces our time spent clean­ing the bath­room – and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, the amount of chem­i­cals we use in the process – has to be a good thing. Many of Toto’s in­no­va­tions can be found in other man­u­fac­tur­ers’ prod­ucts, too, as the tech­nol­ogy be­comes more main­stream.

Most top-end bath­room com­pa­nies have their own ver­sion of the ce­ramic nano-glaze that smooths out tiny im­per­fec­tions, and now it’s hit mid-range brands such as Brit­ton. Th­ese coat­ings can’t get close to the level of self-clean­ing that Toto’s all-bells-and-whis­tles mod­els can, but they do make a dif­fer­ence: “As long as it’s looked af­ter on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, the chances of any buildup are a lot more min­i­mal,” says Fraser Holmes, Brit­ton’s brand man­ager.

Tech­nol­ogy in the bath­room isn’t all about hy­giene and cut­ting down on the drudgery of house­work. Adam Lo­gan, tech­ni­cal ser­vices man­ager at bath­room prod­uct com­pany Grohe, says that now “peo­ple are sim­ply more open to try­ing new things. Peo­ple are now coming round to the idea that bath­rooms don’t have to be quite that bor­ing.”

As more of us in­stall in­ter­net-con­nected de­vices in our houses, Lo­gan says that Grohe is “fo­cus­ing quite heav­ily on the smart home mar­ket”. Its own ver­sion of the shower-lava­tory can be con­trolled via an app, as can its huge spa-like shower, AquaSym­phony, which has ad­justable wa­ter ef­fects, mu­sic and colour-chang­ing lights.

It has also in­tro­duced dig­i­tal leak de­tec­tion with its Sense and Sense Guard prod­ucts: the for­mer is a hockey-puck­like disc that can be placed any­where where there’s a worry about leaks (such as in the void un­der the bath). The lat­ter is a dig­i­tal wa­ter-mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that is in­stalled just af­ter your stop­cock, check­ing for drops in pres­sure that might in­di­cate drips, and shut­ting your whole sys­tem down if there is a crit­i­cal leaks that has the po­ten­tial to wreck your house. Both com­mu­ni­cate with home­own­ers via an app.

The rise of the con­nected home has lots of po­ten­tial in the bath­room. Re­tailer Vic­to­ria Plum is now ex­clu­sively stock­ing SmarTap, which looks like a sleek ther­mo­static shower/bath con­troller, but is Wi-Fi en­abled so it can be used via smart­phone or a voice-acti-

A smart bath­room with in­te­grated con­trols by Cre­stron, main

Left, Grohe’s AquaSym­phony shower has ad­justable wa­ter ef­fects, mu­sic and colour-chang­ing light­ing con­trolled via an app

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