Problem Solver - August 2007
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Adding Durable Restroom Structures

We need to add tough restrooms that can withstand the harsh weather conditions our sites sometimes experience.

By necessity, many parks must site restroom structures where harsh weather can cause severe damage. Whether your facility is in a zone prone to hurricanes, experiences a lot of earthquakes, or has to deal with heavy snow loads or summer flooding, you can help deal with harsh conditions by planning things right up front.

When choosing a restroom facility that will ride out extreme weather as well as daily use and abuse, choose one that has high-strength precast concrete roofs and walls that meet all local building codes. Also look for a structure that has steel frames on doors and windows that are cast into the concrete walls so no bolts or fasteners can come loose, ensuring that they are locked into place and won't blow off or be able to be ripped off. A building whose concrete panels are welded together like sidewalk blocks will also give you an extra leg up on the elements, making the structure practically as strong as a small bomb shelter, and at least able to withstand severe weather conditions such as snow, wind, hurricanes, zone-4 seismic loads, flooding and mud.

Concrete restroom facilities are one of the best options when you're concerned about durability. Plus, many of these buildings are available prefabricated and delivered complete and ready to use, including plumbing and electrical where applicable. The all-concrete construction also makes the buildings rot- and rust-resistant, easy to maintain and able to stand up to the rigors of vandalism, including gun shots. In fact, vandalism can be as detrimental to your restroom facility as harsh weather conditions. A facility marred by vandalism gives off the impression that no one cares about it and might even imply that other crime goes unattended as well. No matter what the climate, it's important to know how to prevent vandalism, too.

If you choose a concrete structure, you already have a head start on fighting vandalism because concrete is more durable than many other materials and can withstand a lot of abuse. One thing that's hard to prevent entirely, though, is graffiti, so it's important to know what you can do before and after it happens.

When you spot graffiti, wash it off as soon as possible. Studies show that there's nearly a zero recurrence rate when graffiti is removed within 48 hours, while the flipside statistic is pretty shocking: If you let graffiti sit on your structure for two weeks or longer, the recurrence rate shoots to almost 100 percent. To create a deterrent for graffiti, be sure you have appropriate lighting installed and consider motion detectors, rather than light switches. A poorly lit restroom is going to be a more attractive target for nighttime vandals. You can also plant some landscaping that provides a natural barrier to the exterior walls. Vines or tall grasses can even break up an open wall of space that invites graffiti.

Inside your restroom, there are also things you can do to help extend the life of the facility and discourage vandals. These days, your restroom amenities, such as soap and paper towel dispensers, can be built into the wall. Plus, wall vents, grab bars and toilet paper holders are available with tamper-resistant screws that further cut down on abuse.

An outdoor restroom is a well-used structure at any facility and should definitely be able to weather both vandalism and, well, the weather itself.

CXT Inc.: 800-696-5766