While visitors to hygiene-obsessed Japan are probably intimate with the concept of commodes with built-in sinks (also: built-in speakers, heated seats, spray nozzles, sensor-controlled lids, and more tricked-out accessories than a Maserati) it would appear that the tiny Baltic nation of Latvia may have the market for urinal-sink hybrids fully cornered.

The creation of Riga-based designer Kaspars Jursons, the Tandem urinal (NPR seems to have swapped Jursons' company name, Stand, for the actual product name but I suppose that both make sense in this instance) is a clever, water-conserving fixture for menfolk that allows them to “wash the hands and rinse the urinal at the same time.” Well, hopefully not at the exact same time.

Reads the product description:

In the 19th century man invented the bicycle, which changed the movement habits of humans forever. TANDEM is not a bike, however the simplicity and functionality of it will open up new experiences in your everyday habits.
A sink and urinal are combined into a single product, creating a multifunctional plumbing device. While you are washing your hands, the water is reused to rinse the urinal placed under the sink. This saves water, time and space.

Kaspars himself explains the design — units have already been installed in a Riga concert venue and sold to buyers in Norway, Germany, Poland, and Russia for, umm, $590 a head — to NPR: "It's not just a fancy piece of art. The idea is about function and consumption. You are washing your hands in the sink on top of the urinal, and the same water that's running is also used to flush. You don't have to use water twice, like when you use the urinal and wash your hands in separate sink."

Got it. However, as a germ-conscious person who (mostly) pees standing and uses paper towels or elbows to open public restroom doors when exiting, I’d be more concerned about having to touch a potentially bacteria-laden tap after using the facilities. Well, it would appear that Kaspars had the foresight to make the tap mercifully hands-free and infrared sensor activated for extra hygienic and water conservation cred. The only issue here appears to be a lack of soap.

In addition to hand washing, I suppose that the Tandem's sink feature could also be used to brush one’s teeth, freshen one’s face, and after one too many bottles of Aldaris pilsner, pee into. Therein lies the danger of putting a sink directly into the top of a urinal. Sure, it reminds gents to wash-up after handling their manparts — 15 percent of dudes fail to do so in a recent Michigan State University study of college town hand-washing habits — but it also gives them an additional target to potentially aim into. Perhaps the Tandem would work best in more "civilized" venues and not dorms, truck stops, and dive bars (the same places where they're probably the most needed).

A brilliant idea or should sinks and urinals be kept at a safe remove? Would you wash your hands in a urinal?

Via [NPR]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Urinal-sink combo tackles water-conservation, hand-washing neglect
A Latvian designer unveils a public urinal with a tap built right into the top to help save water and promote hand-washing.