How many loos?

Once again, the vexed question of provision of loos for buildings has been in those bits of the press and media that I come across.  The inside back page of the magazine "New Scientist" is devoted to "The Last Word" where readers pose science questions and the magazine solicits replies from its expert readers.  This has led to the publication of a series of books with collections of the questions and answers, such as "How to Fossilise your Hamster".  The magazine is copyright, so I am quoting a part and making my O.R. based observations. 

In the current issue, a reader posed a question about how many loos are needed for concerts and similar events.  One response came from an architect who had worked on London's ExCel Centre where the toilets were designed to allow partitions between the genders to be moved according to the mix of visitors expected.  So in the male toilets there are fewer urinals than normal and more WCs to replace them. 

The guidelines quoted were one urinal for every 25 males expected, plus one WC per 250 males, and one WC for every 25 females expected. 

Another response directed attention to a website "thepurpleguide" which provides health and safety and welfare guidance for public events.  Unfortunately, there is a subscription charge for the guide, and I am unwilling to pay, even for you, beloved reader.  But I am prepared to advertise the service!

Other aspects raised in the contributions were varied:  they emphasise the need for operational research work to take into account the psychology of human behaviour.  So, if you are planning for a heavy metal concert where the audience is likely to be drinking significant volume of liquids (alcoholic) then you need to provide more facilities than you would if the concert was geared to teenage young ladies and their (possibly long-suffering) parents.  Then, as some concerts take place in sports stadia where some members of the audience are allowed onto the pitch area, meaning more attendees than would fill the seats around the pitch, then you must provide a "village" of extra facilities.  And there is a well-known effect that the toilets get crowded as soon as the support act finishes, so bladders are emptied before the headline acts.  This is similar - but possibly not as severe - to the need for provision of facilities at theatres for use in the intervals.

This month is "Proms Season" at the Royal Albert Hall; the venue is used for many events, and was constructed before "thepurpleguide", but is well-provided with toilets, even though one or two contributors to tripadvisor have gripes about the occasional queues for them.  Some people would prefer the numbers 25 and 250 to be replaced by much smaller ones - but then would gripe at the extra cost of tickets because of reduced space for attendees and extra cleaning and maintenance.  As another contributor moaned about the cost of drinks at the bar, maybe those prices reduce demand for loos!


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