Of toilets, real estate, health and productivity

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JUST recently, the global community celebrated World Toilet Day (WTD), an annual initiative of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to inspire people to move and tackle the global sanitation crisis.

Imagine this: around 4.5 billion people around the world are living without household toilets that safely dispose of their waste. This is a huge number for such an integral part of life, since toilets and sanitation systems cater to one of the most basic of human functions.

Proper sanitation facilities promote health because of the simple fact that they allow people to dispose of their waste appropriately. Throughout the developing world, many communities do not have access to suitable sanitation facilities, resulting in improper waste disposal and the spread of diseases.

As such, toilet facilities, not only properly built but properly managed as well, are integral not only in urban planning, but in property development and management as well.

The lack of properly developed and managed washroom facilities in the workplace compromises the workers’ health and may lead to poor work performance, low productivity, absenteeism and even attrition.

Proper handwashing and toilet habits

The UNGA’s World Toilet Day, which was celebrated on November 19 here in the Philippines, is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015, which include a target to ensure everyone has access to a safely managed household toilet by 2030.

The UNGA realized that many health problems stem from the dire lack of toilets, particularly in rural areas and lower-class communities. This has led to young people defecating in street corners, sewers and estero, putting their neighborhood, as well as the surrounding communities, at high risk for diseases.

But along with adequate toilet facilities, what is also needed is the awareness of how to use toilets properly, to avoid the spread of contagious diseases. The good news is that some private companies have taken it upon themselves to help the UNGA by establishing their own programs whose objectives are aligned with that of WTD.

One such company is Rentokil Initial, the leading global provider of hygiene solutions, which recently launched its “Adopt-a-School” hygiene program that aims to help schools spread the awareness of proper toilet and handwashing habits, and raise the hygiene standards of the Filipino youth.

“Our advocacy complements the World Toilet Day’s aim of addressing the global need for more toilets, because aside from a shortage of clean toilets in many communities, studies show that contributory to the spread of diseases is improper sanitation and bad toilet habits,” Rentokil Initial Managing Director Ederine Gee Geneblazo said.

Launched a couple of weeks ago at the Makati Gospel Church New Life Christian Academy, Rentokil Initial’s Adopt-a-School program, indeed, complements the objectives of WTD by promoting proper toilet hygiene.

I believe that the pivot in the mind-set toward proper sanitation and hygiene starts with the young, which is why I fully appreciate Rentokil Initial’s initiative that focuses particularly on helping students learn and develop proper hygiene habits at an early age.

In fact, the key message of Rentokil Initial’s school launch activity was “When you flush, cover and wash,” which emphasized the importance of covering the toilet bowl whenever students flush to avoid contaminating the air, and of washing their hands afterward.

Toilets, water and the workplace

Another important area that requires adequate toilet facilities is the workplace. A 2003 study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that 17 percent of all workplace deaths are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices. And as more and more office spaces are developed all over the Philippines, the need for adequate toilet facilities for these become all the more essential.

The truth is that the lack of properly developed and managed washroom facilities in the workplace compromises the workers’ health and may lead to poor work performance, low productivity, absenteeism and even attrition.

However, Mikko Baranda, associate director of LeeChiu Property Consultants, is upbeat about the matter. “I believe that in the property sector, sanitation is given utmost importance since developers are mandated to follow the building code and other local government regulations,” he noted.

“Developers that strive for green certification, such as LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design], Berde [Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence] or WELL, for their properties must build based on detailed specifications to be granted accreditation,” he added.

Baranda, however, noted that what is sometimes overlooked in building toilets and sanitation facilities are the technology and design that cater to the specific needs of tenants or building occupiers.

For instance, demand for office space is coming primarily from the information technology-business-process management sector. “Their office-space requirements are different from that of a traditional brick-and-mortar occupier, given their high density of employees,” Baranda stressed. “This translates to the need for more toilet facilities in the office buildings.”

While sanitation facilities, such as toilets, are critical in property development, equally critical are other factors—their proper management, the awareness of how to properly use them, an adequate supply of clean water and the development of correct toilet habits.

This redounds to the need for property developers, property managers, schools, and private entities to work together to ensure that these factors become intrinsic elements in property development and urban planning.

Image Credits: Rentokil Initial, Pixabay



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