by Photo by: Michael Groll

In this bathroom prototype, the shower and sink are on movable panels. The floor has drains throughout to make slips less likely. For cleaning, just hose down the whole room.

With the touch of a button, a motorist can adjust a car’s seat, mirrors, and stereo system; so why can’t we adjust our bathrooms as easily? Architects at the University at Buffalo have already built two prototypes that can be personalized to fit our needs.

Both bathrooms have sinks, toilets, and showers that move up and down for people of different heights, as well as sinks and showers that move sideways to make space. In one prototype, the bathroom’s components are on interchangeable panels, with multiple plumbing hookups built into the walls.

In the more innovative bathroom, the sink and shower fixtures glide on tracks and lock into place so the bathroom can be rearranged almost instantly. For example, an older person who needs more room in the shower can move the sink closer to the corner where the toilet is located, turning the rest of the bathroom into a shower space.

The next step, says Abir Mullick, project director at the university’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Universal Design, is to incorporate “smart” technology that recognizes individuals and automatically adjusts the bathroom layout to accommodate them.