Why Does This Urinal Have Two Buttons?

For reasons that only a therapist could explain, I have an ongoing interest in the user interfaces we find in bathrooms. I was down visiting the good folks at Bootup Labs and discovered not one but two oddities in their office bathroom.

The first was the flush controls over the urinal. As you can see, there are two buttons:

Urinal with Two Buttons

If you click to view the big version, you’ll see that one button simply has a horizontal line on it.

Without going into visceral detail, such a setup makes sense for toilets. Liquid waste requires less flushing action than solid waste. It’s a smart innovation that saves a ton of water–I wish every toilet in North America already had two such buttons.

But urinals? What’s wrong with only using the ‘less water’ button? What’s the ‘more button’ for? Kidney stones?

I moved over to wash my hands, and discovered the shallowest sink in the world:

Shallowest Sink in History

The photo doesn’t do it justice. As my friend indicates, you can barely get your hands under the faucet. And much of the water inevitably slops over the edge of the sink. And Flying Spaghetti Monster help you if you ever want to shave at work.

These sinks just seem obstinately absurd. As if the designer said, “I reject that perfection that thousands of years of sink evolution has brought us. Shallow is the new deep!”


  1. I think the sink is fine, but that it’s the choice of a short neck faucet that makes it unusable. A higher or longer neck on the faucet would likely help the sink’s design come out better.

  2. Urinals with buttons? Which everyone presses after peeing and before washing their hands? Eeiuw. Same goes for the faucets. Eeiuw.
    Don’t you have motion sensors on that side of the atlantic?

  3. It’s not just the shallow sink … it’s the ridiculously short faucet, totally wrong.

  4. I think bathroom appliance designers have gotten too clever for their own good.

    Once motion detecting toilets are urinals came into play, that’s good. If a mechanical solution is necessary, the best is a floor-mounted footswitch, like many Cactus Club locations have (and, incidentally, which bathrooms at YVR airport had in the ’70s — I thought that was pretty cool when I was 7). But the old-fashioned flush lever works perfectly well and has the advantage of being mounted directly to the plumbing, without wall or floor routing needed.

    As for sinks, I’ve noticed that many hip, modern store and restaurant basins look cool, but are (like this one) barely functional. Too shallow, poorly draining, tough to get your hands under the faucet, prone to splashing your trousers with even the slightest water pressure. A reasonably deep, oval sink and a good old-fashioned faucet with knobs for hot and cold really do work well.

    Too often these things are overthought, at the expense of usability.

  5. > But the old-fashioned flush lever works perfectly well and has the advantage of being mounted directly to the plumbing, without wall or floor routing needed.

    The handles are points of contact where infections can happen, so it makes sense to take them out of the equation as much as possible in airports, which are like stock exchanges for viruses and bacteria. I like the foot pedal idea: clean, manual, satisfying.

  6. I totally noticed that about the sink too. I am an obsessive hand-washer and those sinks irritate me. It wouldn’t be so bad if their faucet was higher off the sink.

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