Bathrooms are coming out of the shadows to steal the limelight as a favorite spot to chill, unwind, and relax. Certainly, the pandemic has pushed its popularity. Families in isolation yearning for at-home escapes increasingly choose the bathroom. Factor in a focus on leading healthier lifestyles, and the functionality of the bathroom has transitioned from that of a simple spot to get in, shower, and get out to a leisurely spa-like retreat. Wellness-inspired smart bathroom technologies are contributing to the experience in some very remarkable ways.
“We’ve seen the pandemic have an effect across all sectors in our society and we’re now starting to see how the change in human behaviors is shifting the way we design our homes,” confirms Bill Darcy, CEO, National Kitchen & Bath Association.
“Consumers are more eager to embrace new technologies, innovative ways to provide multi-functional options to maximize their space to fit any occasion and are opting for surfaces and designs that make it easier to clean, as well as address health and wellness.”
Bathrooms Expected to Grow Increasingly More Technological
A recent NKBA report asked about technology in addition to features such as colors, furnishings, materials and more. In estimating top in-demand tech over the next three years when comes to bathrooms, the survey-takers expect:
thermostat smart control for flooring/shower (61%)connected scales, mirrors and other products (54%)app control to start shower/heat in the morning (51%)motion sensor controls for lighting (47%)integrated speakers for audio (44%)built-in display for videos/music/Internet (42%)voice-activated lighting controls (40%)leak detection with sensors and alerts (40%)voice-activated controls for faucets/tubs/showers (39%)preset lighting schemes (30%)
This comes as no surprise to Kyle Steele, founder and president of Global Wave Integration, a home tech systems design and installation firm in Burbank, Calif. He’s seen the writing on the wall for some time. “I started the process of becoming a LEED-certified contractor more than a decade ago to learn how to incorporate green building standards into our system designs.” He’s now focusing instead on WELL accreditation, a newer certification program, which outlines best practices for designing healthy building environments.
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Technology, he says, is becoming an increasingly important facet of healthy design initiatives. “Homebuilders, architects, designers, and homeowners are definitely starting to catch on to the impact technology can have on their health and well-being. Wellness features that may have once been considered novelties are now top home tech requests.”
The growing demand for healthier, cleaner, more therapeutic home environments is reflected in Global Wave Integration recently completed 4,000-square-foot showroom, where a realistic, proof-of-concept bathroom (and other rooms) demonstrates the incredible effect smart, modern, design-forward technologies can have on one’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
Getting into a (Circadian) Rhythm
The genesis of the healthy bathroom prototype dates back a few years to Steele’s first exposure to Lutron’s revolutionary human-centric lighting system Ketra. The system syncs the color, intensity, and warmth of the bathroom’s energy-efficient LED fixtures with the outdoor lighting. The effect transforms how occupants experience light, establishing a closer connection with nature, elevating mood, and relieving stress, among other benefits.
“People say they instantly feel better and more relaxed, after visiting our showroom bathroom,” Steele affirms. “They can’t really put their finger on how or why, but the lights definitely have something to do with it.”
Even how the lights activate promotes good health. A motion sensor positioned at the bathroom entrance triggers a “welcome” lighting effect. From here, visitors can dim, brighten, and change the color of the lights to a rainbow of different hues on the fly via voice command. This touchless mode of control dominates the bathroom design, embodying a motion-sensing faucet with built-in hand dryer and voice-activated music and video.
Music Soothes the Soul
The calm, soothing illumination is enhanced with the perfect blend of music. A rack of AV equipment elsewhere in the Global Wave Integration showroom delivers to imperceptible speakers recessed flush with the ceiling—both over the vanity and inside the shower—the sound of ocean waves, forest life, chirping birds and other nature soundscapes.
“The immersive audio effect is similar to what you’d experience at a spa,” Steele says. At the same time, a high-res display appears within the vanity mirror. It is set to display nature scenes that complement the audio, but guests can always use a keypad or their voice to switch the view to Netflix, YouTube, the local news, or something else.
Bathroom surfaces and technology lend a cleaner, more sanitary environment, so Steele made sure to implement both in the Global Wave Integration wellness demo. Certainly, the touchless faucet, smart toilet, and voice-activated lighting and audio effects help. So do the easy-to-sanitize surfaces of the vanity, shower stall, and wall-mounted keypad (just in case visitors prefer to operate tech by pressing buttons rather than voicing commands).
“We’ve also incorporated a water filtration system, HEPA air filters, and an automated air diffuser,” Steele says. Working behind the scenes, these systems may go unnoticed, but they make a huge difference in users’ health.
Expanding Beyond the Bathroom
The demo bathroom gives visitors of Global Wave Integration’s showroom a realistic glimpse of the impact of technology on health and wellness. None of the tech is a prototype. These aren’t futuristic concepts that may or may not come to fruition. The tech at Global Wave Integration is proven and available now. From the expertly choreographed lighting and audio effects to touchless modes of control, they are poised to transform old-style utilitarian bathrooms into the perfect place to de-stress, reenergize, reap the rewards of better health and wellness.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister publication DesignWELL365‘s website.