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Interview_Andreas Dornbracht

“Nobody has to have a guilty consciousness when taking a bath or shower at home!”

The ISH in Frankfurt, Germany, the world’s most famous showcase for sanitary installations is knocking on the door. Before the ISH starts on March 11, we talked to bath and sanitary expert Andreas Dornbracht of the Coalition of German Sanitary Industry (VDS) and board member of the ISH about the trends of the industry and the customers needs.


iF: Mr. Dornbracht (AD), sustainability is a crucial topic in the bath and sanitary industry. But also for society in general. At the same time and according to statistics, people spent more time in their bathrooms and bathe or shower much longer. This is a contradiction, right?

AD: From our point of view it is not – and we do all we can to make this last. In Germany every person uses 123 liters of drinking water per day. Actually, this is 16 percent less than in 1990. In international comparison, Germany leads when it comes to reducing water use, in spite of obviously sufficient water resources! The German manufacturers are responsible for this positive development, whose innovative products and intelligent systems help maintain this thoughtful housekeeping of water resources in the private and (half-)public lavatories.

New water conserving flushing techniques for toilets, intelligent electronic faucets and water conserving showers reduce not only the personal water, but also the power use. Using less water means using less power to heat the water. The manufacturer’s efforts to reach this goal already start with the production: Behind all the faucets, bathtubs, showers and high class bath furniture are well thought-out production processes, which are set to preserve the environment and our resources.

However, for our work, water is always primarily a carrier of experiences and emotions and not simply a means to do our hygiene.  The devotion to nature in this stressful time is a logical consequence. Therefore, the versatile topic of water that is linked to a very primary body and nature experience, is predominantly seizable in the bathroom. We view water not only as a natural phenomenon, but as a part of our culture. It is no surprise that all important water experts take part at the ISH in Frankfurt. In the future, the private bathroom will add up to this individual bathing culture – a culture, that is not imaginable without water. So, nobody has to have a guilty conscience when taking a bath or shower at home!

 

iF: Minimalism, grey and beige or pure white? What are, apart from the more sustainable bathroom, the big trends?

AD: From a consumer perspective, there are four main trends for bathrooms:

1: The topic of color: Color is not just a trending topic, it is a means to differentiate and add value to your bathroom. Modern lifestyle-bathrooms are more and more colorful and seem to end or at least reduce the long era of white dominance. Colors not only influence the planning but also the design of bathrooms. Our forecast is that the bold use of color will replace the minimalist understatement as a signal for elegance and design conscience.

2: Concerning materials, there is also a variety of new styles: Apart from wood, marble and new metallic surfaces for faucets, furniture and accessories play a crucial role. The interior bath designer cannot only play with dim or shiny surfaces, but also implement completely new design elements.

3: Very important is also the effort of manufacturers to develop more intelligent, cross-linked and environmental regulations friendly products. The keywords are hygiene, water management and environmental compatibility.

4: A crucial fourth trend, especially in Germany, is the age-based, barrier-free bathroom and additionally the care bathroom, which we support with our project “Aktion Barrierefreies Bad”, together with German Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmeier. More and more people have the wish to stay in their own homes as long as possible instead of nursing homes. To make this self-determined everyday lifestyle possible for the elderly or disabled, their homes have to be matched to their special care needs. The direct surroundings of these people in terms of architecture or furniture are actually rarely prepared for such changes in life. The bathroom plays a crucial role, when care at home is wished for. The bathroom is also the workplace for nurses and has to fulfill the requirements accordingly!

 

iF: The bathroom is no longer just a necessity and to many people it bears a sense of wellness – even in the smallest homes. What do you think: Why do people spent more and more time in the bathroom and rest there more frequently? And how is this development reflected in modern bath design?

AD: Today, people tend to have an individual, more comfortable and health-conscious life – this is displayed in the modern bathroom as well. The design is becoming much more “homey” and clearly contradicts the classic interior trends of bathrooms. At the same time, new technologies are getting more and more important.

Current statistics show that people spent around 40 minutes in bathrooms, this is exactly 4 minutes longer than 2006. There is clearly the wish of customers for more modern, lifestyle-oriented bathrooms. Around 16,7 million Germans plan on investing in their bathroom in the next years. 6,2 million of them plan on a whole or partly renovation and 10,2 million plan on buying single bath accessories or furniture items. Favorites are accordingly all products surrounding the washing station, on grade showers and age-based reconstruction. There will be many of these news at the ISH, making the bathrooms more homelike.

Individuality and less boredom are getting more and more important, especially when it comes to color. Manufacturers and designers welcome this need for more individuality and bold designs and present a diversity of surfaces and unusual arrangements.

Accordingly, the ISH 2019 is showing many trends that highlight the growing importance of the “lifestyle bathroom”. The trend forum “Pop up my Bathroom” by the Frankfurt Trade Fair and the German sanitary association (VDS) presents with the show “Color Selection” what possibilities the current color trends open up for the interior design of the sanitary industry.

 

iF: Back in the days, there was simply a shower radio. Today there are smart homes – how “smart” will the bathroom of tomorrow be?

AD: Smart home appliances are no longer just a gimmick for tech-freaks, but reach a broader part of homes. This is due to the many diverse digital appliances nowadays and their possibilities. While intelligent elements used to serve our entertainment and comfort only, they have many other useful and sustainable functions today concerning hygiene, or energy- and water savings. Smart home appliances in the bathroom can therefore help to protect the environment and foster your own health.

Still, you will not find smart bathrooms in many homes. According to a German statistic by Blue Responsibility for GfK, an initiative of sanitary manufacturers, only ten percent use intelligent appliances in the bathroom. At the same time, the “Smart Bathroom” will become more common in the next years: More than half of the people asked can imagine to incorporate smart solutions, like for example a scald protection, a sound bathtub or a digitally controllable faucet, during the next renovation.

However, one aspect is crucial when it comes to smart bathrooms: 45 percent of Germans would incorporate smart solutions in their bathrooms to control and economize energy and water consumption. These sustainable benefits of digital solutions play an important part in the consciousness of almost half of the German customers interviewed. As a comparison: Only 25 percent of the respondents claim to want smart appliances in the bathroom for entertainment and information only – which makes sustainability even more important!

When it comes to smart solutions, there is also a third factor important: Automated warnings of water damages via app. Around 19 percent of the interviewed people see this a major priority in modern bathrooms and would consider implementing it. Such an app could reduce the loss of water – which, again, matches the trend to more sustainability and a thoughtful handling of water resources.