A new state-of-the-art US aircraft carrier is currently the only ship in its fleet that is fully equipped with gender-neutral restrooms. However, urinals are absent from the ship’s restrooms, and now design experts have reservations about the new look.
Every urinal on the new USS Gerald R. Ford, which was commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, on July 22, has been replaced with flush toilets and stalls.
The Navy is fully backing the changes that were made to the restrooms on the ship.
They cited convenience as the reason for the switchover, relating to possible crew changes in the future that would allow a smooth transition for male and female bathroom reassignments, the Navy Times reported.
“This is designed to give the ship flexibility because there aren’t any berthing areas that are dedicated to one sex or the other,” Navy Operations Specialist 1st class, Kaylea Motsenbocker said. “So if this space was needed for males, we could shift the females to other berthing areas and make this all male without any modification being necessary.”
The majority of the carrier’s 5,000-person naval population are men. Women only account for 18 percent of sailors.
Bathroom design experts tend to say that stalls take up more room and are less sanitary than urinals.
“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Chuck Kaufman, President of the Public Restroom Company, which specializes in designing bathrooms, said, according to the Navy Times.
Kaufman added that traditional seated toilets are farther away and that men are likely to miss the toilet, since they’re not sitting down for the most part.
“A urinal is a target,” he said. “What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly.”
Further, when men sit down at the toilet, it makes the trip to the bathroom take a longer amount of time. Kaufman has estimated that peeing at a sit down toilet takes twice as long than when going to a urinal, which takes a little under a minute on average. He also said that whatever convenience that is afforded to be able to quickly switch one gender’s bathroom to another, is lost, because of the amount of space that water closets and stalls take up.
When Kaufman is designing a bathroom, he only needs 1,500 square inches to install urinals, while he needs more than twice as many, 3,300 square inches, for a toilet. For a ship that costs as much as $13 billion like the Ford does, all of these measurements matter much more.
Some other changes that have come to the new Navy ship are the newly redesigned sleeping areas that contain less beds in each room. Also, there are different spaces for recreation, sleeping, wider passageways, better gyms, better air conditioning and more efficient light bulbs.
Moreover, the Ford now has a smaller island, which is farther back on its flight deck. This will allow for more space on the ship for air operations.
Inside of the ship, the traditional throttle system has now been switched out and replaced with a touch screen display that is said to be one-of-a-kind. “This ship can basically drive itself,” Petty Officer 1st Class, Jose Triana said, CNN reported.
The Ford also boasts 40 fuel stations,which will allow for more fueling in multiple areas on the ship with less personnel.
All of these changes and advances on the Ford will present challenges to the crew who will be operating it, but the crew seems to be ahead of the game in terms of learning how to successfully man the new ship. “We’re creating guidelines,” Triana said in an interview with the Associated Press this month. “Were creating operational — basically instructions — on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design.”
The Ford will not deploy until 2021.