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Tiles that clean themselves, faucets with no levers, residential urinals and automatic humidity sensing fans – these are some of the design innovations that have started showing up in the bathrooms of upper-end homes during the last few years. Combined with a trend to minimal Asian design, bathroom designs these days can best be designed as clean and green.

Active Clean Air and Antibacterial Ceramic Tiles were introduced to Canada last year by Savoia Canada, a subsidiary of the Italian GranitiFiandre Group. The company says the tiles use titanium dioxide to "clean the air of polluting organic substances when either sunlight or artificial UVA rays shine on the tiles. This process transforms harmful organic and inorganic substances into compounds that are harmless to humans." They are available in about 40 different colours and various sizes.

A set of faucets and showers from American Standard has no levers or faucets, just four electronic control icons on the top surface of the tub filler or the bottom of the shower column. They are operated by regular C type batteries.

Kohler Canada offers waterless residential urinals and toilets with built-in bidet functions including a control for water temperature and flow, a deodorizer function, a heated seat and warm air drying at three speeds.

If you can never remember to turn on the bathroom fan during or after a shower, Broan-Nutone offers Humidity Sensing Fans, which automatically turn on when a rapid rise in humidity is detected in the room.

Waterfall faucets and shower towers that include everything from steam options to waterproof built-in speakers are other popular bathroom features. From an esthetic point of view, Japanese influences are being seen in the clean lines and open spaces in new bathrooms. Hotel-like "floating" vanities and wall-mounted toilets make small rooms look larger.

An American Standard survey in 2008 showed that 88 per cent of people were "doing a lot of things inside their bathrooms besides the obvious." More than one-third read their mail there, while 43 per cent used it to get dressed, 19 per cent listened to music on their radio or I-Pod, 15 per cent talked on the phone and three per cent watched TV.

Most people spent about 30 minutes in the bathroom a day, but 25 per cent of people reported spending at least an hour. Women spent more time there than men, and women with children spent more time in the shower than women without kids.

The biggest bathroom trends are in the "green" categories – conserving water and energy. In Ontario, the provincial government recently announced plans to mandate water-saving toilets. It says Ontarians currently use about 260 litres of water a day, nearly twice as much as people in Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands. American Standard says Canadians use the second highest amount of water in the world, with 35 per cent of the water used for the shower and the tub, and 30 per cent used by flushing the toilet.

Many municipalities offer incentives to residents to switch from 13-litre toilets to energy efficient six-litre models. For example, Toronto residents can get $60 or $75 for making the move. Kohler Canada offers an interactive map that shows where you can get rebates in municipalities across the country.

In addition to dual-flush and low-flow toilets, water is being conserved in the bathroom with low-flow faucets and showerheads. Changing all three in a bathroom costs as little as $600, but provides long-term financial benefits.

Some other "green" trends include using cleaning materials that are ammonia-free (such as water and vinegar), and installing energy-efficient lighting. Kohler is using recycled and reclaimed materials in some of its cast-iron products.

What’s coming up in future bathroom trends? While white still rules as the dominant fixture colour, other more vibrant colours may be making a comeback. In terms of bathroom design, an aging population is prompting more consideration of accessible features, such as grab bars and curbless and level-access showers.

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