Wasteful Design

We were fortunate to spend a few days in Durban and the Drakensberg. As always when traveling you stay in strange beds and use strange bathrooms. So you don’t always know where the light switches are, how to turn on/off the heater or even how the shower works.

Shower mixers are the bane of my life. Unless the water coming out instantly hot I struggle to know which is the hot/cold side. Maybe I’m stupid. But my logic indicates that I should turn the handle towards the red or blue mark; left for hot and right for cold.

But no. This doesn’t work. So while fiddling and turning an enormous amount of water is wasted.

Couldn’t the designers help one out. Here are examples of good and bad use design.


The mixer on the left is pretty good. Clearly indicates the direction for warm/hot/hottest. The one of the left is terrible. Not only is the direction not obvious it’s hidden! Who is going to turn their head around to see which way to turn. And also, let’s not forget, most people don’t wear their glasses into the shower.

If you think this is just me, the Australian Government has released guidelines on this issue.

Making design intuitive and therefore products easier to use can seriously contribute to reducing waste. Let’s assume there’s a hotel with 200 rooms and 60% occupancy. That’s a minimum of 120 showers a day. And while the poor guest tries to work out how to mix the hot water about 5L goes down the drain.

This is 600L per day or 219,000 litres per year!

Product designers need to think of design for use and not only for aesthetics.

Architects are just as guilty. We work in a lot of waste areas. And, with few exceptions, architects haven’t thought about waste management when designing the building. So we come across waste areas hacked into parking lots. Or waste areas which are only accessed via customer walkways - inevitably these high traffic areas are now greasy, smelly and sticky - bin bags leak!

Some waste areas are so badly designed that it’s almost impossible to wheel a wheelie bin through the door.

Not thinking of the waste area at the design stage is as bad as not thinking of ablutions.

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