Guest Column - October 2009
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Restrooms & Locker Rooms

Greening Recreation Facilities
Sustainable Solutions for Restrooms and Locker Rooms

By Kris Alderson


he economy may still be recovering, but that's not stopping construction plans for recreation, sports and fitness facilities. According to Recreation Management's 2009 State of the Industry Report, nearly two-thirds of respondents are forging ahead with plans for new buildings or renovations to existing facilities in order to remain competitive and viable in an increasingly challenging market.

If you're building a new facility or updating an existing one, the reasons for going green seem to multiply every year. For one thing, sustainable building practices help contain utility costs. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) says that expanding use of green technology accounts for an 8 to 9 percent decrease in overall building-operating costs. And now, government funding for energy-saving construction and fixtures has become a critical part of the economic stimulus program.

Growing in popularity, USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and green practices for both new construction and existing buildings. LEED practices help building owners and operators measure operations, improvements and maintenance.

If your facility's restrooms and locker rooms—two major users of water, energy and resources—need updating, consider applying some of the latest eco-friendly building strategies.

Water Efficiency

Product manufacturers are developing innovative technologies for toilets, faucets and other fixtures products that lower utility costs by reducing water, electricity and gas consumption, and help facilities earn LEED credits for water efficiency. Since restrooms and locker rooms consume a significant amount of water, they should be a primary focus for improving water efficiency.

Replacing older toilets that use as much as 4.5 gallons per flush (gpf) with low-volume toilets that use only 1.6 gpf can save a substantial amount of total water use. Ultra low-flow toilets and urinals restrict flow to 1.28 gpf, and 0.125 gpf, respectively. Dual-flush toilets curb water use to 1.6 gpf for solids and 0.8 for liquids. Low-flow fixtures, metered faucets and waterless urinals can help reduce water consumption by more than 30 percent, which would earn two LEED points for water use reduction.

Likewise, seeing that public lavatories must utilize products that have 0.5 gpm or less, there are many new handwashing products that are curbing water usage. Sensor activations can reduce water usage up to 70 percent, and infrared activation on faucets can save water by restricting the flow to a preset time.

Updated and attractive shower areas are always popular with patrons, but it's important to look for ways to curb water usage. Use low-flow showerheads that use 2 gpm or less. For additional savings, install showers with metering valves. Electronic metering valves are another reliable means for saving water and can be set as low as 15 seconds per use or adjusted for longer use when needed.