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Beyond the Bathroom Drain—Where Water Intersects with Architecture

June 27, 2022
Architects and designers are moving toward architectural drainage solutions where aesthetics, performance and accessibility all meet.

Silver linings aren’t easy to find in the cloud that the COVID-19 pandemic cast across the globe in recent years, but one of them may be the renewed importance people are placing on the built environment. During the “Great Pause,” homeowners and commercial building owners alike took the opportunity to renovate and remodel homes and properties to make them more comfortable and attractive to occupants. 

For example, bathrooms in both homes and hotels have become more than mere washrooms; many have been transformed into luxurious, spa-like retreats where people can escape the stresses of work and the uncertainty of the times we’re living in. Experts say these well-appointed bathrooms with high-end finishes and fixtures remain a top priority for homebuyers and travelers.  

But it doesn’t stop at the bathroom. Amenities in commercial buildings are more important than ever to lure tenants, employees, guests and students out from behind their laptops at home and into these upgraded facilities. Amenities aren’t limited to the indoors, however. In fact, an interesting side effect of the pandemic is that it prompted people to spend more time outdoors, where the risk of viral transmission was diminished. As everyone turned to al fresco dining, park gatherings and other open-air activities, architects, designers and facility executives shifted their focus to outdoor spaces, which often blur the lines between inside and out.

Proper drainage of rainwater, irrigation or snow melt is essential in these environments, but utilitarian drains often detract from these upgraded outdoor spaces. As a result, many architects and designers are moving toward architectural drainage solutions where aesthetics, performance and accessibility all meet.  

The Benefits & Applications of Linear Drains 

When most people think of drains, they likely picture a circular opening in the center of the floor with a slotted metal cover. But drainage solutions today go well beyond the typical center drain just described. Architectural linear drains offer a different and more elegant approach that carry a number of benefits across multiple applications.  

Rather than sloping the floor toward the center from multiple sides, linear floor drains are recessed at the low end of a sloped floor that moves the water from top to bottom. The drain catchment area (also called a channel assembly) is long and rectangular, with either a vertical or horizontal drain outlet which can be connected to drain piping located within the floor assembly or outdoor surface system. The drain channel assembly is covered with a long, rectangular grille or grate that functions the same way the center drain cover does—allowing water to enter while keeping out debris and providing a safe surface for people to walk on. 

The benefits of utilizing architectural linear drains are many and can help improve safety, hygiene and access at the floor: 

  • Safety. Excess water can cause conditions that may lead to slip-and-fall injuries. The drainage system should not pose a safety hazard or compromise the ability for anyone to walk or travel over it. Linear drains are designed and installed so that the drain is flush with the adjacent finish materials that will help prevent any tripping hazard.  
  • Hygiene. Health and cleanliness are always a concern where water is present. As such, it’s essential that any drainage system can be readily and easily cleaned as needed to eliminate the growth of mold and mildew, but also to be sure that any foreign objects or debris can also be removed. Linear drain covers are easily removable so they can be cleaned and sanitized as needed. 
  • Barrier-Free Accessibility. Barrier free accessibility is a typical code requirement for any part of a walking surface. The ability to make architectural drains flush with the surrounding surface and support the loads of people walking or riding in wheelchairs means that they have a head start on providing an accessible surface. In fact, linear drains may facilitate accessibility. 

The benefits of architectural linear drains extend to a variety of different commercial applications, including: 

  • Pedestrian Walkways. Excess water from rain or irrigation requires proper drainage of pedestrian walkways but is sometimes impeded by landscaping, berms or ground that is already saturated. A continuous linear drain along the edge of a walkway with underground piping can distribute water to larger natural areas where it can be more easily absorbed. 
  • Balconies. Various residential, hospitality and commercial buildings incorporate exterior balconies that are subject to the same drainage issues as are found on the ground. By slightly sloping the balcony surface away from the building and towards the edge of the balcony, water can be directed to a linear drain where it can be collected and piped away without sacrificing aesthetics.  
  • Pools. Linear architectural drains installed around the perimeter of a pool can help contain and redirect errant pool water back into the pool filtration system. The drain can also be used to delineate the pool edge and serve as a visual safety reminder, particularly for young children. 
  • Decks and Patios. Many decks and patios today are covered with solid materials such as ceramic tile or a similar nonporous surface. Architectural linear drains provide an ideal solution. The ability to integrate them into a design layout, between different materials, or along edges means that the surfaces can retain their design appeal while the linear drain takes care of draining away the water. 

  • The Beauty of Linear Drains 

    Most people couldn’t describe a well-designed drain unless they saw one. Once they do, however, designers, architects and facility executives may never settle for standard drains again.

    For over a decade, Infinity Drain has established itself as a leader in design-centric decorative shower and outdoor drains with a reputation of unsurpassed quality. From hand polishing decorative grates to custom fabrication, the company offers a broad selection of decorative choices and installation options. Its award-winning designs and innovations, including the Site Sizable linear drain, continue to shape barrier-free bathroom design. For commercial and residential applications, Infinity Drain is revolutionizing shower installation with its completely waterproof Stainless Steel Shower Base backed by an original owner lifetime guarantee against waterproofing failure. 

    With supply chain issues still plaguing the manufacturing sector, Infinity Drain offers clients a refreshing perspective on “we’re here for you” by both designing and manufacturing every drain right here in the U.S.  Headquartered in Long Island, NY, the company takes homemade one step further by sourcing all raw materials from U.S. suppliers. This means faster turnaround, consistency in material, reliability in quality and a focus on projects from start to finish.  

    The company recently introduced its first Custom Collection that represents current trends frequently requested by architects and designers, demonstrating its complete custom fabrication capabilities and strengths.

    It’s no wonder design and facility professionals are looking beyond the bathroom drain toward architectural drainage solutions like those provided by Infinity Drain to meet their aesthetic, performance and accessibility requirements.

    Case Study: Rocket Mortgage Field House

    Cleveland, OH
    DESIGNER/ARCHITECT: Rosetti, SHoP Architects, Gensler 
    PROJECT TYPE: Commercial 

    Located in downtown Cleveland, the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is an expansive 152,970-square-foot arena. Opening its doors in 1994 as the Gund Arena, the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse was constructed with the objective of becoming northern Ohio’s primary entertainment venue. With two name changes and an extensive renovation in 2019 the stadium has been completely transformed from its original design into the ultra-modern arena it is known as today. 

    Tasked with creating a contemporary space where the Cleveland Cavaliers could get ready for each home game, architect firms, SHoP and Rossetti set the tone of the bathroom area of the locker room with sleek, modern upgrades. 

    Smooth slate-look tiles have been placed along the floor of the changing area to establish a strong and grounding base, while creamy beige tiles adorn the walls, adding a pop of light and personality to the space with its subtle detailing. The showers feature a more dramatic design with a combination of subway and large-format tiles in a deep grey that spreads a relaxing atmosphere throughout the bathroom. 

    In order to maintain the integrity of the entire locker room, the bathroom was designated as a complete wet room with the help of Infinity Drain‘s linear and center Tile Insert drains fixed across the shower, changing and sink area, and adjoining floors. 

    To meet the specification standards set by the NBA, Infinity Drain fabricated custom length linear drains for the showers to meet the needs of the shower head height and water production to avoid flooding. This tailored drainage solution provided optimum waterproofing to ensure no water damage occurs in other sections of the bathroom. 

    Now equipped with a refreshing space to warm up or wind down before and after games, the Cleveland Cavaliers can set their sights on a successful season. 

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