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FAQs: Designing effective and sustainable handwashing facilities
What factors should be considered when selecting handwashing infrastructure?
What factors should be considered when selecting handwashing infrastructure?
Alexandra Czerniewska avatar
Written by Alexandra Czerniewska
Updated over a week ago

There are several factors to consider when selecting or designing handwashing facilities for COVID-19 prevention and beyond. The perfect design might not exist, but the criteria below help to make decisions about which type of handwashing facility is best to promote in your context.

  • Desirability – Which designs do users like? Which will provide the instant rewards that help change behaviours? Consider using bright colours and decorations to make the facility stand out, or other ways to make facilities desirable such as adding mirrors.

  • Ease of use and accessibility - Which designs will be usable by children, older people, people with disabilities, or other groups? Do you need different designs for different users? WaterAid and WEDC have developed these accessibility and safety audits to ensure the perspective of users whose requirements are often ignored in standard design.

  • Water availability - Will your facility be connected to a piped water supply or does it require a stored water container? Is water scarce in your area? Consider handwashing technologies that reduce the flow of water allowing hands to be washed with a minimal amount of water.

  • Hand cleaning products – Is your handwashing facility designed to be used with liquid, bar soap, soapy water or ash? Which designs will enable soap or other cleaning products to be kept at the handwashing facility? People often worry about theft or misuse of soap and other cleaning products, but it’s hard to create habits if they’re not kept there all the time.

  • Drainage– How will grey water from the handwashing facility be collected and disposed of, if not by pipe or drain? Nobody wants to stand in a puddle of water while they wash their hands.

  • Drying hands – How will people dry their hands? If drying materials are provided, where will they be disposed of?

  • Location - What is the best place for the handwashing facility to be located so that it is easy to access, convenient to use, and acts as a cue or a reminder to wash hands? Can your handwashing facilities also be a location for changing behaviour or shifting the way people think about hygiene? The addition of simple visual ‘nudges’ or simple messages could increase hygiene behaviours and encourage new norms.

  • Portability – Ideally, handwashing facilities should remain in the same place every day to facilitate handwashing habits. But if it needs to be moved (e.g. brought inside at night, moved throughout the day to keep shaded), how easy is this and who is going to do this?

  • Security - Is the handwashing facility in a location where it is at risk of being stolen? Are there certain parts of the facility (like taps) that might be removed and lead to the facility becoming dysfunctional? Are there measures you can take to reduce the risk of theft?

  • Distancing – How many users do you expect to use each handwashing facility? Do you need to consider the position of the facilities (or taps) to enable physical distancing while handwashing? If queues are likely to form by the facility, markings on the ground can encourage physical distancing while waiting to use the facility.

  • Perceptions - Are there any other local perceptions which need to be considered? For example, some people might be worried about touching the facility, so some designs can be operated by the foot, lower arm or elbow, or use sensors. The benefits of washing hands appear to outweigh risks of re-contamination, but perceptions are important for changing behaviour.

The following considerations are usually referred to as ‘operations and maintenance’, but we argue that these are very important to consider in the design or selection of your handwashing facility:

  • Consumables - How can you ensure that soap and water is regularly replenished? Who will pay for water charges or soap costs?

  • Cleaning - How easy is it to keep the handwashing facility clean? What products are needed and how will cleaning responsibilities be shared among facility owners or users?

  • Durability - Which designs will continue to function under regular or high use conditions? Are materials susceptible to deterioration with exposure to UV light, or could certain soaps cause rusting of metals? Are parts well secured to prevent people from dismantling parts of the facilities, leading to them becoming dysfunctional?

  • Repairs - Who will fix or replace parts if they break, or if the facility starts leaking? Using materials and parts available locally will make repairs easier if needed.

  • Cost - How expensive are the facilities and do they offer good value for money for response organisations and community members? It is important to focus on costs over the life of the facility: initial capital cost, cost of consumables, cleaning, and repairs.

  • Scalability – Which designs are easiest to produce at the necessary scale and speed?

  • Logistics - Can the handwashing facilities be easily transported and constructed in the locations where they are needed and with available equipment?

Want to learn more about designing effective and sustainable handwashing facilities:

Reviewed by: Jamie Myers, Janita Bartell, Astrid Hasund Thorseth, Sheillah Simiyu

Last update: 02.03.2021

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