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HPM May 2017

42 BATHROOMS & SHOWERS Addressing the concerns facing the planet Martin Walker, CEO of Methven UK, looks at the future of the bathroom industry With the global population set to increase by a third to nearly ten billion by 2050, the need to ensure we can cope with the increased strain on the planet’s resources has never been more important. As a result, those designers and product developers that are working on new technologies are focusing their efforts on the areas placing the highest demands on natural resources. The challenges surrounding water usage are well documented, with demand for water set to jump by 55% in the next 30 years, meaning advancements in water efficiency must look to creatively address this issue as a matter of urgency. Biological mechanisms Reassuringly, innovations informed by biological mechanisms, such as plants, are already on the rise. Biomimetic materials – those that mimic the properties of natural substances – are being utilised more and more in everyday life and, in the bathroom sector, a great example of this is the lotus leaf. Scientists have studied the plant’s hydrophobic (water-repellent) properties which allow it to self-cleanse. The architecture of the leaf means that water droplets are not absorbed and instead collect on the surface and gather dirt before running it off the edge. This has now been mirrored in manmade materials and applied in product development – including Methven’s Aurajet technology, which is made from Polypropylene. Polypropylene has low surface energy, meaning it acts in a hydrophobic manner – repelling water and preserving spray-quality – saving water and energy while also resisting limescale build-up. While water efficiency remains a priority, protecting the quality of water will also be a key concern in the future. Bathrooms account for two thirds of household water usage Eco Brass, a lead and heavy metal-free, high-strength brass alloy, is already being used in fastenings, fittings and valves across the globe and now, because of its enhanced corrosion resistance and lead content below 0.1%, it is also being used in taps. With legislative pressure to reduce or remove the lead content from brasses, particularly in water fittings and especially from drinking water fittings and systems, we can expect to see Eco Brass becoming much more prevalent in future. The revolution in new materials is not the only advancement set to change the industry. 3D printing has already made a significant impact in many areas of engineering and manufacturing, and the bathroom industry is no different. Its use, particularly when printing metals, will offer benefits to both manufacturers and consumers, as using 3D printing makes the manufacturing process more flexible, enabling faster production and resulting in easier-to-tweak designs that make it possible for products to be changed with the click of a button. This will be more cost-effective for manufacturers than traditional machining methods, as small volumes of individually tailored products can be produced in one run. Retailers will also benefit from the quick production time, as it allows expensive stock levels to be reduced. In turn, consumers will get a strong and robust product in a single piece of metal, without joints or welds. Installers will see advantages too, with the products being more manageable and easier to install due to their lightweight construction. Meanwhile, experts’ predictions about the widespread adoption of advancements through the Internet of Things are already coming true as more and more appliances and applications are now able to connect and interact with one another. Similarly, smart metering and household energy management software has already proven popular, delivering energy reductions as high as 60% per household and prompting estimates that by 2025, consumers will be able to access real-time data relating to their water usage too. Real-time information Allowing consumers to drill down to access real-time information per application will be an important next step, and developments like this will only act to encourage manufacturers to make products that deliver water efficiency. With pressures and concerns related to water consumption on the rise and the bathroom accounting for two thirds of household water usage, it is essential the bathroom manufacturing industry positions itself at the forefront of the technological curve. By adopting technologies used in other industries, bathroom manufacturers can address some of the most pressing concerns facing the planet. www.hpmmag.com May 2017 enquiry number 125 “The challenges surrounding water usage are well documented, with demand for water set to jump by 55% in the next 30 years, meaning advancements in water efficiency must look to creatively address this issue as a matter of urgency”


HPM May 2017
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