The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, has significant quality-of-life upgrades from earlier carriers, such as roomier berthing spaces, where the sailors sleep and relax.
But another significant change is that the upgraded ship will now have only gender-neutral bathrooms that consist of toilet bowls and stalls, instead of urinals. In fact, according to the Navy Times, there are no urinals onboard the ship.
The thinking behind the change is to allow bathrooms to easily switch from male to female, depending on who’s sleeping near them. For example, if the adjacent berthing space is assigned to females, the bathroom can be assigned for females. If the space is assigned to males, the bathroom can also be used by males.
“This is designed to give the ship flexibility because there aren’t any berthing areas that are dedicated to one sex or the other,” Operations Specialist 1st Class Kaylea Motsenbocker told the paper.
The Times interviewed bathroom design experts who said seated toilets are less sanitary than urinals and take up “far more space.”
“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” said Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, since men are more likely to miss a bowl than a urinal, allowing for urine to build up on the floor.
“A urinal is a target,” he said. “You have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly.”
He said men can aim accurately if they sit down, but that is unlikely to happen. He also said sitting down makes trips to the bathroom longer.
Kaufman said a urinal takes up 1,500 square inches of space for a urinal, whereas a toilet needs more than 3,300 square inches.
“Why would you want the ship to be bigger just for fixtures?” he said. “You can get twice as many urinals as water closets.”
The new bathroom design is also meant to accommodate a growing number of women in the Navy. In 1976, just six percent of Naval Academy inductees were women; in 2016, there were 24 percent, according to the NY Daily News.