Adam Logan, Training Manager for GROHE UK, assesses the demand for sustainability in the UK bathroom market, how installers can adapt, and what we can expect next. 

Consumer awareness around water consumption was a trend ignited several years ago by the surge of smart water meters, which gave consumers a true indication of their water consumption and spurred them on to find solutions that were less impactful. 

Several years later, increasing media presence on environmental issues, plus a global pandemic and recovering economy, and sustainability has been driven even higher onto our list of priorities in the home.

Market research further confirms that consumers are actively wanting to make considerate, sustainable choices for their bathrooms. When GROHE looked at consumer shower behaviour and attitudes in June 2020, the research concluded that 51% try to save water while showering, with a similar 54% agreeing that they would like a shower that could assist them in being sustainable in their day-to-day life. 

The consumer study also highlighted that 42% of those surveyed like to enjoy long showers, with 37% also admitting to feeling bad about the environment when taking a long shower. This confirms that there is significant demand for suppliers to provide solutions that enable a luxurious experience that use fewer resources and are kinder to the environment. 

When looking more in-depth, the data shows that consumers want to feel more in control and knowledgeable about their consumption. 34% of survey participants agreed that they would like to know what temperature they shower at, with 32% also keen to understand how much water they use when they shower.

While installers need to be aware of new technologies that optimise water-saving and how these are integrated into brassware and fittings, many of these products are no more complex or different to install. Fittings such as shower heads or basin mixers with flow limiters are also designed to offer the same experience as a standard fitting, meaning no notable reduction in performance for the user. 

However, some brands and products will offer the option for the installer to make further adjustments to the standard fittings to enable even greater reductions in water consumption. Therefore, it is always recommended to follow installation instructions and engage regularly with suppliers to remain informed about the latest product updates.

One area that installers should remain aware of is the storing of hot water in the customer’s home, and how newer heating technologies, such as ground source or air source heat pumps which are more energy-efficient, can cause performance and safety issues on a customer’s shower if not correctly calibrated. 

While these systems physically use less energy than a traditional boiler and can enable customers to store their water at lower temperatures that in turn use less energy to heat and can help save on costs too, these systems can only heat water to temperatures of 50°C. Therefore, when fitting showers, thermostats need to be carefully calibrated to ensure the customer receives the desired experience. 

Fittings that focus on reducing water consumption are likely to continue to infiltrate the mass market as more and more homeowners continue to assess how their lifestyle choices are impacting the planet. Water-saving will continue to remain integral to creating ‘greener’ bathroom spaces now and in the future, as these fittings are both accessible and cost-effective for consumers to invest in.

However, looking ahead to the future, sustainable residential interiors will also begin to centre more around use of material, sustainable production, and recyclability. More circular practises, such as implementing the use of 3D printing innovation for creating fittings and spare parts will present new possibilities when it comes to sustainability in the bathroom, and new ways of working for the industry too. 

The 3D metal printing process can be particularly resource-efficient, especially when manufacturing components such as spouts and handles which can be designed much thinner to save material. Energy used for producing a 3D metal-printed tap is also about 20% lower compared to the production energy used for a brass cast tap body.

The cradle-to-cradle design concept is also beginning to emerge in the UK market, a model that contrasts the ‘take-make-waste’ system and enables manufacturers to drastically reduce the use of new resources. A product is designed and manufactured with the intent of using its components in its end-of-life-phase for the creation of new products. 

With 59% of participants in GROHE’s 2020 market research valuing the importance of a shower being sustainably produced, the full life cycle of our bathroom products could soon come under scrutiny from an increasingly eco-aware nation and be the next step forward in achieving more sustainable bathroom spaces.