Open Showers Are a Way to Connect with Nature

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Young woman showering in an open shower in the tropics with tropical plants growing inside the shower.
Image: © Ale Koziura

Open showers offer a refreshing way to connect with nature in tropical climates. People living in areas where it is hot and humid for most of the year are always looking for cost effective ways to remain cool and comfortable, aside from the use of ceiling and wall fans.

Air conditioning is of course the most common way that people achieve that, but it comes at a cost to the environment and to the pocket. Open showers offer an alternative approach: they provide a refreshing and sustainable way to stay cool, and at the same time provide a connection with nature.

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Open showers are not the same as outdoor showers. The latter refers to the type of showers that are seen around swimming pools and at beaches. An open shower is one that is connected to the house, with walls around it for privacy, but has no ceiling and is open to the fresh air.

As many visitors to tropical garden resorts know, the feeling of showering in an open shower under dappled sunlight filtering through shady trees, or even a starry night sky, is extremely therapeutic. It feels much more relaxing than doing the same thing in a fully enclosed indoor shower.

Open shower in the tropics with three shower heads and decorative plants inside the shower.
Open showers don’t have to be single showers. They can be built much larger than indoor showers to accommodate two or even three shower heads. Image: Esra Gesiyor

Showering outdoors allows one to experience both warmth and a cool breeze – creating an unforgettable sensory experience. As well, open showers enable individuals to see and hear natural surroundings such as birds chirping or leaves rustling – giving an authentic connection with nature that promotes mindfulness and relaxation.

Open showers offer another significant advantage: sustainability. They can be constructed to draw upon water sources like rainwater, thus reducing mains consumption, and use less electricity for heating as rainwater storage tanks generally store the water at a much warmer temperature. In many cases, it’s not necessary to use a water heater at all except in cooler dry season months.

If rainwater is used for an open shower, there needs to be a basic filtration system to ensure that leaves and dirt from the roof of the house do not clog up the plumbing and shower nozzles. The water doesn’t need to be treated to drinking water quality, but it needs to be as clean as it was when it fell from the sky.

Open shower in the tropics with large mosaic-tiled bath and tropical palms growing inside the shower.
Open shower structures can also be built to incorporate bathtubs or spas, but this then becomes a much larger project with more drainage requirements. Image: Mukesh S.

Whilst most open showers are built as an extension to an indoor bathroom, it’s often possible to add them later if you have a suitable space around the house where a door opening can be made in an exterior wall. Check with local authorities though as to whether a building permit is required for such an extension.

Whether you’ve moved into a house that had an open shower included on the original plans, or whether you are considering adding one as an extension, there are a few key issues homeowners must be mindful of in order to create a safe, functional, and enjoyable open shower experience in a tropical climate.

The main one is ensuring adequate drainage capacity. Tropical climates typically experience heavy rainfall in the monsoon season, and the amount of water that enters the shower area after a thunderstorm will be much more than the amount of water that someone will use when showering.

Therefore, an open shower needs larger drainage pipes than an indoor shower, and preferably an overflow outlet into the garden to cope with situations where there may be heavy storms. If this is not done, the build-up of water inside the shower area may cause it to flood back into the indoor bathroom or that part of the house adjacent to the open shower.

Open shower in the tropics showing part of external doorway to internal bathroom.
An open shower has minimum security so it’s important to ensure that the door between shower and bathroom is to a lockable external standard. Image: © PhotoSunnyDays

For security reasons, the door to the open shower needs to be designed as a lockable external door, rather than the interior door that it actually is. That’s of course to ensure that nobody can enter the house by climbing over the exterior walls when the shower is not being used.

Whilst the walls of an open shower don’t necessarily have to be of the same type of construction as the main house, the materials used must be solid enough to provide both privacy and withstand tropical storms. Often when homeowners add an open shower to an existing home, they use bamboo poles or slats for the walls. This looks nice but they need a hardwood or steel frame which is securely fastened to the house to ensure that the walls can withstand high winds in a tropical storm.

As the shower area is open to the outside, the high humidity of the tropics can cause a build-up of mould or algae on the floor more readily than in an indoor shower. Therefore, it’s important to use non-slip tiles on the floor and ensure that they are regularly cleaned. A bed of pebbles around the tiled area of the floor often looks nice, but this needs its own drainage outlet to ensure that water does not sit under the pebbles and become stagnant.

It’s also important to ensure that any receptacles inside the shower area that can collect water aren’t left with water in them after showering, as mosquitoes can quickly start breeding in any containers that have still water in them.

Open shower in the tropics with bamboo walls and tropical plants growing inside the shower.
An open shower with lots of tropical greenery inside is a way of enhancing the ‘back to nature’ feeling of showering outside. Image: © Thannaree Deepul.

Many people like to grow large plants in pots inside an open shower, if there is room, as this enhances the feeling of showering with nature. However, ensure that there are no dark hidden areas behind the pots as you don’t want to be showering and suddenly finding out that you are sharing the space with a snake or scorpion!

Having hanging baskets or wall planters with tropical greenery inside the shower is another way to enhance the nature experience, and you’ll have no difficulty watering them as you can do it whilst showering. Make sure though that you don’t plant anything that has spikes or barbs on the leaves or stems.

For many people, having an open shower is more than just creating an experience where you can connect with nature. It brings back happy memories of trips to tropical garden, beach, or jungle resorts where open showers are often the norm. And they require less maintenance as there are no glass panels or extractor fans to clean, leaving more time to enjoy the experience.

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