Problem Solver - August 2007
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Providing Greener Restroom Facilities

We'd like our parks to be more eco-friendly, but we're not sure we can afford it. We're currently adding new restrooms to the site. Is there a way to make them greener?

It's great that you want to make the world a little more eco-friendly. It's a huge step, for sure. But you must shake the notion that greener facilities will mean less green in your agency's wallet.

In these environmentally conscious days, we could all stand to live a little greener. It's not only a moral imperative; for many recreation managers it has become a fiscal one as well. Soaring energy costs have led to increased interest in so-called green buildings, structures designed to be energy-efficient, water-conserving, protective of air quality and not wasteful of construction resources, among other things.

Several facility managers nationwide have turned to the LEED—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—Green Building Rating System to help them achieve their eco goals. The voluntary standards and certification program recognizes structures that are more environmentally responsible, healthier and more profitable.

As far as restrooms go, the industry already has done most of the work for you. Recreation managers have the luxury of purchasing pre-engineered buildings that achieve the goals for resource efficiency and sustainable construction. Selecting low-flow fixtures, metered faucets and waterless urinals, for example, can reduce water consumption by more than 30 percent. Some parks even use collected rainwater to flush toilets. This can translate to major cost savings in water and sewer bills, as well as energy costs for pumping and heating water. Although installing green products and more efficient fixtures may add costs up front, their advanced technology can save money over the building's life cycle. Newer fixtures as part of a restroom renovation also can mean less maintenance and greater resistance against vandalism. By adding "touchless" capabilities to any of these fixtures, you'll be able to improve sanitation and reduce the spread of disease.

It's also wise to consider high-efficiency electrical fixtures, which boast both low energy usage and a long life. Greener facilities, for example, have embraced photo eye and motion lighting controls, which provide illumination only when a patron enters the restroom. When the facility is empty, the lights are off and you're saving money. The same could be said for high-efficiency hand dryers, which use less energy, reduce paper waste and improve sanitation. Fluorescent light fixtures, in addition to their longevity, also can be purchased with an optional shield that minimizes light pollution by reducing upward light projection.

Of course, you need to consider more than just plumbing and lighting fixtures when going green. Make sure your building also has energy-efficient insulation and construction. SIP (structural insulated panel) roofs and extreme weather insulation can prove invaluable, as can polycarbonate windows with double glazing. You might also want to consider solar electric power and water heating, LED lights, on-demand water heaters and radiant space heat systems to simultaneously reduce costs and protect the environment.

If you're shooting for a LEED certification, make sure you select a manufacturer that understands the rating system and will work with you to achieve this impressive goal. The best companies provide hands-on service, including specifications on every building detail from design to completion.

Romtec Inc.: