Locker Rooms & Restrooms
Greening Locker Rooms & Restrooms
Sustainable Design Evolves, Locking in Style & Savings
By Kris Alderson
Locker rooms and restrooms represent a critical piece of the recreational facility management puzzle, as many view them as one of the most important building elements. The majority (60 percent) of recreational facility owners and managers report that these high-traffic areas are the most commonly included amenity in such establishments, according to the Recreation Management 2012 State of the Industry Report. Ask any patron, and they'll tell you locker rooms and restrooms are a big deal to them, too.
The business challenge is keeping these critical areas cost-efficient and in good condition. A growing solution lies in green building strategies that gain efficiencies while curbing building expenditures due to reduced water and energy usage. Products used in sustainable design also provide benefits such as durability, low-maintenance, attractive styling, user convenience, hygiene and even safety.
Here is a review of the latest green technology and trends used in locker room and restroom design.
Sustainable Materials Promote Durability
More manufacturers are incorporating sustainable materials into restroom and locker room products, which—in addition to environmental benefits—can increase the maintainability and life span of these products. For fixtures such as lockers, lavatories and partitions, natural and recycled materials are more commonly used. Likewise, there is a greater demand for products that are GREENGUARD-certified, which means the product contributes to indoor air quality by meeting strict chemical and particle emission standards.
For example, solid surface lavatory countertops made of recycled materials and rapidly renewable material help ensure long-term durability, ease of cleaning and long-term maintenance. Solid surface resists stains, chemicals, scratches and heat, which reduces the likelihood of repairs and the need for replacements, making them a good choice for high-volume, high-abuse washrooms. Surface marks and scratches are repaired easily with everyday cleaners or fine-grit abrasives, making the material very easy to clean and maintain.
One of the newest durable natural materials available for lavatory fixtures is a molded natural quartz material that can be sculpted into a range of attractive design options, including subtle curves and radius edges. Composed of an eco-friendly resin made of soy and corn, natural quartz costs less than granite and is virtually maintenance-free, since it does not require sealing, buffing or reconditioning. In addition, its smooth, seamless finish has a non-porous surface, so it does not support microbial growth.
Likewise, lockers and toilet partitions made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) solid plastic are very hard-wearing and are better for the environment. To illustrate, each locker made from HDPE is equivalent to 500 recycled milk jugs that otherwise may have ended up in a landfill. This solid plastic material is also easy to maintain and clean, and holds up well to heavy usage, especially in wet humid conditions in locker rooms and restrooms near swimming areas.
When comparing solid plastic lockers with metal, plastic is a better material choice because it remains unaffected by moisture and is rust-resistant. In addition to being odor-resistant, solid plastic lockers are designed to withstand impact, dents and scratches that would easily damage metal lockers and never need to be repainted. With solid plastic, maintenance staff can easily wipe away dirt, graffiti, paint and markers with everyday cleaners and even use a hose for fast washdown. Conversely, old, rusted-out metal lockers with chipping paint not only look bad, but also raise maintenance concerns and can leave a bad impression of the facility with patrons.
Touch-Free Fixtures Advance Efficiency & Cleanliness
There is a continued preference among consumers and building owners for touchless fixtures in restrooms. They are extremely convenient and easy for users to activate and for facility owners to clean and maintain. Their "hands-free" design also reduces wear and tear from usage and opportunities for vandalism.
From an efficiency standpoint, research has shown that electronic faucets can help reduce water usage because they turn off automatically when a user leaves the sink so water is not left running. Some newer hands-free fixtures use 0.38 GPM faucets vs. 0.5 GPM, which achieves a 24 percent water savings.
And, since touchless fixtures create fewer touchpoints in the restroom, they cut down on transmission of germs and bacteria from user's hands, which they are trying to wash away in the first place.
As for drying hands, freestanding high-speed touchless hand dryers help promote hand-drying without excess paper waste and expense. Newer models are also highly energy-efficient, as they use 80 percent less electricity than other hand dryers, while drying hands in as little as 10 to 12 seconds.
Restroom Condition Affects Customer Satisfaction
On the topic of washing up, an annual survey of Americans' hand-washing preferences in public places by Bradley Corp., manufacturer of commercial restroom fixtures, found that 51 percent of Americans say they've had a particularly unpleasant experience in a public restroom due to the condition of the facilities. The three most common complaints about public restrooms were a bad smell, restrooms that looked old, dirty or unkempt, and toilets that were clogged or not flushed.
These issues are a direct reflection on business establishments: When asked about their perceptions of businesses with poorly maintained restrooms, survey respondents cited poor management (62 percent); lack of care about customers (59 percent); and a lowered opinion of the business (54 percent).
Wet and slippery floors—an issue even more common in recreational facilities with pools and aquatic centers—were also high on many respondents' lists of restroom issues. While nearly 70 percent of respondents think that water collecting on the floor is extremely/very aggravating, almost half say they are extremely/very uneasy about walking across a wet restroom floor.
In addition to making sure towels are readily available and scheduling frequent moppings, facility managers may consider using new hands-free technology for restroom fixtures that addresses wet floors. A new "all-in-one" hand-washing fixture—with touchless soap, water-conserving faucet and high-efficiency hand dryer in the same unit—eliminates dripping water on the floor, improving safety in commercial restrooms since the user's hands stay within the sink area until they are dried.
We have only touched on some of the major strategies for greening locker rooms and restrooms. Economic and environmental concerns will continue to drive sustainable building design and technology is sure to advance. As a result, recreational facilities have an increasing opportunity to improve operating and maintenance costs, while building a more comfortable and pleasing environment for their patrons.
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