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Feature Article - October 2016

Stop & Go

Style & Maintenance Needs Key to Choosing Restroom Structures

By Deborah L. Vence


Common Concerns

Cleanliness and safety are two of the biggest issues people worry about with restrooms.

"Definitely cleanliness, for families with children, [and] location of the building, making sure the building isn't in a remote area and is easily seen in the parking lot," Rachak noted.

Another issue is locks.

"Making sure you can lock the restroom when you are in it. Some of them I've seen [with a] slide bolt … a privacy lock …," he said.

Similarly, Kaufman said that safety is the highest requirement he sees from clients as well as reduction of maintenance costs. "This question can be posed to park staff or visitors who will use the restrooms. Visitors are most concerned with safety and cleanliness, while park staff faces maintenance costs from abuse and vandalism as their highest requirement," he said.

"When designers provide large open vent screening in the exterior walls," Kaufman said, "passersby on the outside can hear if anyone is needing help, and if so inclined, render assistance. Closed-up restroom exterior walls do not allow this safety issue to be heard without the vent screening."

Burt said since his company deals with projects early on, the biggest concerns of customers are price, size and aesthetic options.

"For our customers and people interested in working with us, the focus tends to be on how much they can get within their budget. Before any design work has taken place, these issues are the first area of concern," he said.

During the design phase, restroom projects often will take a different course, "through what we call a 'comment and response' phase," he explained. "This is where we have provided designs based on the customer's needs and preferences and the designs are submitted to a reviewing agency."

These agencies review the designs and then provide comments to make sure the building is aligned with the set codes and design standards. Essentially, this is another phase in which cost is a paramount issue.

"Reviewing agencies can make absolute statements, such as in Florida [where] most doors must be storm-rated to the highest standard," he explained.

"If these doors were not included in the initial design, they must be added for the building design to be approved and constructed. The catch is that storm doors are more expensive, either causing a building to go over budget or requiring more affordable options to be included elsewhere in the design," he said. "This process is a give and take that can be complex, and mistakes during this phase can lead to costly delays if they aren't discovered until the inspections during construction.

"… In most cases, building departments and reviewing agencies standardize restroom designs to account for a predetermined 'level' when it comes to things like safety and cleanliness," he said. "The vast majority of cities and municipalities are satisfied to meet these predetermined levels that have been established by their community. For the customer, their area of influence instead tends to center on aesthetic and functionality considerations relative to the size and cost of the building they hope to get within their budget."

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