Feature Article - November 2006
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Special Supplement: Problem-Solver Guidebook

By Stacy St. Clair and Emily Tipping

Adding a Restroom in a Remote Location

When recreation managers put public restrooms in a remote location, they often do so with their fingers crossed. There are so many variables—weather, vandalism, etc.—that could bring harm to the building. While those concerns are understandable, they need not overshadow the restrooms' purpose.

With the right facility, all these cares will melt away. Here's how to do it:

Q: We'd like to put a public restroom in a remote part of our forest preserve. How can we get one without the high cost and long lead times often associated with a tailored architectural design?

A: A pre-engineered public facility is probably your best bet. With design help from the building's manufacturer, a wide variety of styles and features are available to tailor the building to fit just about any site or situation.

Q: What are the major design concerns when selecting a pre-fabricated building?

A: Major design concerns include building size, fixtures and hardware, accessibility, vandal-resistance and ease of maintenance. Aesthetic appeal and flexibility of function are also key considerations.

Q: How can I make sure it blends into the surroundings?

A: The industry produces several pre-engineered buildings in colors and textures that blend easily into their natural environment. Textures like cedar shake, exposed aggregate and barnwood work wonderfully in wooded areas.

Q: I hate to disrupt the natural habitat for just a restroom. Can I incorporate any other uses into the building?

A: Absolutely. Parks often need the building housing public restrooms to serve multiple purposes. Pre-engineered restroom manufacturers offer design services to craft a durable multiuse facility with additional space for showers and dressing rooms, concession booths and outdoor covered shelters, equipment storage and mechanical rooms, and even office space.

Q: How do I protect my building from the elements?

A: Select materials that can withstand inclement weather. The industry offers buildings that can withstand heavy winds, high snow loads and zone-4 earthquakes. If you live in a region susceptible to these conditions, make sure your buildings can handle it.

Q: Given the restroom's remote location, I won't be able to watch it as carefully as I'd like. What steps do I need to take to keep the building vandalism-free?

A: The best defense against vandalism is selecting the right building and materials. Concrete structures, for example, easily withstand the rigors of vandalism. Brick and wood, meanwhile, are more vulnerable during the graffiti-removal process. Dark, rough surfaces deter vandals because their work will not be as visible, thus denying them the thrill of seeing their crime on display. Regardless of the building type, all outdoor structures should be covered with a protective coating that allows graffiti to be expunged without damaging the paint or surfaces beneath. Inside the building, you may want to consider installing ceramic tile or coated concrete from floor to ceiling.

Q: How can I prevent graffiti once the restroom is installed?

A: Once the properly coated building has been installed, recreation managers must maintain their vigilance. Make sure it's hard to reach the exterior walls. Use clinging plants such as ivy to break up writing space and make the wall hard to reach. Installing lights and landscaping in the area in front of the wall provides strong barriers. Keep the restroom clean to avoid a neglected appearance that invites vandalism. If graffiti does appear, it should be removed as quickly as possible.


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