Throne rooms, powder rooms, the WC… let’s talk basics. Australian homes are being built with too many toilets and its wasting precious resources.
Who remembers the thunder box at the rear of the back yard and the cheek-squeezing, knees-together quickstep it entailed? Families were larger in the little-house-out-the-back’s heyday: a minimum of five members, seven hardly noteworthy. Nowadays, a new residence has a good chance of having more toilets than residents.
My first dunny was on a dairy farm where the home and cows’ night paddock were one and the same. It was a classic six foot by four foot chamferboard building on short stumps, nestled in a grove of Pepperina trees.
A night trip to the loo involved going along the veranda and down a full flight of stairs, taking a short walk across the paddock, hoping you missed any sloppy cow pads, then into the monster-filled never-lit dunny that was covered with spider webs. Not to mention bumping into a cow along the way – scary enough to send you back to bed.
In Lewis Mumford’s The City in History, the American historian observed that the fall of the Roman Empire was preceded by a mounting obsession with bathrooms and bath culture. Mumford drew dire parallels with the United States — and that was in 1961.
What are archaeologists going to conclude when they excavate what’s left of our civilization in a few millennia? That the inhabitants of the era regularly suffered from the trots?
Dunnies are expensive and mono-functional, so why the unnecessary repetition in dwellings? Are they a real estate agent con that feeds herd mentality? “An ensuite to every bedroom, that’s what the market wants, mate!” “Gotta have one at the living level, pal!”
Dunny multiplication removes space. In most homes, bedrooms, and living and dining areas have to be reduced to make room for the toilets.
We are getting rid of our personal waste at the greatest cost per square metre, ensuring money can’t be spent elsewhere. One less toilet in your home could pay for photovoltaic solar panels to perpetually cut your power bill. Get rid of another toilet and a large water tank could forever reduce the water bill.
In Queensland, builders have whinged about the extra cost to add water tanks to residences and the government foolishly agreed. But nothing was said about the cost of multiple dunnies. It just shows you where community values lie.
And, it gets worse. Ensuites!
Already an indulgent luxury, they now come with his and hers basins. Huh? If you’re that desperate for your own basin, there is always the laundry tub, two toilets, the kitchen sink, the bath, or the shower to use.
What do double basins really represent? More leaky taps and more blocked waste pipes.
These days, you can buy a crapper without a cistern. The visual horror of a porcelain cistern above the bowl has been solved for those of delicate aesthetic sensibilities. The porcelain hippopotamus head is all alone on the cubicle floor. This marvel of modern technology is achieved by a hidden water storage area within the walls. There is no gravity to feed the water to the bowl as is the case with the traditional cistern. The flushing of this marvel is achieved by an electric pump. So, there is an electrical connection required, an electric motor and a water pump, all demanding excessive maintenance and future replacement.
Some of these toilets even have heated seats to add to the ludicrous pseudo luxury.
As to the future, there is only terror ahead: the dunny app. Push the dunny icon on the magic phone and the flap lifts, the seat heats before you squat, your selected repertoire of excreting music plays, the sensor of completion is activated and when you are finished the robotic bum washer/wiper cleans up, followed by the powder puff machine. Nirvana.
There could be one advantage of such an app: at the flip of a button, the seat flap would immediately lift and return after use.
Are there answers?
First, we need to stop using euphemisms. Let’s get rid of references in real estate promotional material to “powder rooms” for starters.
Second, apply a tax to homes with multiple toilets and bathrooms. Nothing is fairer than indulgence taxes.
And finally, all dunnies should be composting toilets in this environmentally enlightened age, even in high-rise buildings.
Russell Hall is a Brisbane-based architect with experience in residential, retail, commercial and industrial design. He is interested in designing whatever comes along.
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