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Feature Article - September 2018
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A Necessary Service

Restroom Structures Take On Different Situations

By Deborah L. Vence

Whether they're prefabricated or built on site, restroom structures are a necessity for the public, offering easy accessibility for anyone taking a leisurely stroll through a quiet park or for large groups of people at a crowded sports complex or high-traffic city park.

The fact is that restroom structures are important and essential for just about any situation—from the busiest of areas to the most remote places.

Unique Situations

Addressing the ways restroom structures can handle unique situations, Kyle Earlywine, co-owner of a Vancouver, Wash.-based company that specializes in restroom buildings, prefab and vault toilets, said there are many—ranging from urban streets that are plagued with vandals to ski resort mountaintops with thousands of visitors a day.

For example, he noted a Portland, Ore.-fabricated restroom as "still the most intriguing" restroom, stating that it's specially designed for areas at risk, such as drug use, vandalism and even homeless people locking themselves in the restroom to sleep.

As indicated on the company's website, the restrooms are "simple, sturdy, flush toilet kiosks located on sidewalks in public areas," and are "free and accessible around the clock every day of the year. [They] give the community environmentally-friendly, clean and safe restroom facilities. [It] comes fully tested and assembled from the factory."

Earlywine also noted that "The important thing is to do lots of research. There is a best option for every situation, but unfortunately, there are not a lot of restroom experts to point people in the right direction," adding that searching the Internet is a good place to start researching and a good place to find an expert who can provide valuable information.

Whether they're prefabricated or built on site, restroom structures are a necessity for the public, offering easy accessibility for anyone taking a leisurely stroll through a quiet park or for large groups of people at a crowded sports complex or high-traffic city park.

"Restroom manufacturers can be a great source of information. There are also a few public restroom advocacy groups that can provide independent opinions," he said.

Equally important is finding out the needs associated with a restroom structure.

"We need to answer, 'Is this in a flood zone? What do the structures need to be? Precast concrete?' And, does it need to be heated in some way? Add that to the consideration," he said. "We have to go through this list of questions in order to figure out what restroom someone is going to get."

Dave Worthington, manager of a company in Easton, Pa., that specializes in precast concrete buildings, said precast concrete buildings are abuse-resistant, and can withstand vandalism. "They are also fire-resistant from vandals, who may attempt to start waste fires," he said.

Both interior and exterior wall surfaces could be treated with an anti-graffiti coating making cleanup easy, and remote locking and unlocking of buildings through cellular devices makes management simple.

"This is a benefit to municipal-owned buildings where multiple organizations need access at different days and times," he said.

What's more, Gregg Zentarsky, Northeast U.S. sales manager for a company that manufactures prefabricated concrete restrooms, showers, concessions and storage buildings, said to look for "all-concrete design that is vandal-resistant and easy to maintain and clean; remote access for building functionality controls; and ease of customer use (the idea is for the user to get in and out as fast as possible)."

Another important question is how restroom design in large urban parks differs in terms of the type, size and location, suggested Chuck Kaufman, president of a Minden, Nev.-based company that specializes in prefabricated public restrooms and buildings.

"Large inner-city park designers face different design standards for the mix of use for the park," he said.

For example, with picnic pavilions, "Attendees at picnic venues are consuming food and drink, thus requiring restrooms within about an hour after consumption," Kaufman said. "Park planners calculate the number of attendees at the venue, and restroom design firms respond by sizing the fixture count for the building. The restroom should be close to the venue location."

Another example is tot lots.

"When kids are heavy into playing, they usually give little time to parents to respond to the 'need.' Thus, small single-user family style restrooms are usually the park planner's choice and right next to the tot lot location," Kaufman said.

With an athletic field complex, "Often the need for these facilities includes concession rooms and restrooms, in between field venues for soccer, baseball, etc.," he said.

And, "Again, with the food element, usually planners reduce the estimated number of restroom fixtures to mainly the visitors watching as the players are exercising and in need of hydration, and less often a restroom," he added. "Restroom design firms evaluate the food menu and number of seating spots to determine sizing of the restrooms."

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