Feature Article - November 2008
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Rest Stops

Adding Versatile, Durable, Beautiful Restrooms

By Sue Marquette Poremba

'Bomb' Shelters

Precast concrete restrooms appear to be a popular choice for parks and other public spaces. One reason is that these buildings are durable and require less overall maintenance than other types of structures.

"They are primarily maintenance free," said Matthew Smith, vice president of sales and marketing at a Virginia-based precast concrete manufacturer. "Park owners don't need to put much time or money on the facility beyond basic cleaning."

Concrete buildings also tend to be more vandal-resistant than other types of buildings, which again is a major consideration. "Restroom buildings are often in locations where vandalism can easily occur," Smith said. "That doesn't necessarily mean they are in a remote location. They can be in the suburbs or inner city with a lot of neighborhoods and a lot of children running around. Kids become mischievous, and they try to vandalize buildings. One of the great features of our buildings is that they are virtually vandal-proof."

Smith's company's restrooms, for example, are three inches thick and reinforced with steel. "A kid can't take a baseball bat and put a dent it like he could with a metal building or light it on fire like you could with a wood building or punch a hole in the side of it like you could with a fiberglass building."

In fact, a well-made concrete restroom, including a concrete roof, is almost like a little bomb shelter, said Gary Burger, of a national precast concrete building company. And that's a good thing.

"For whatever reason, restrooms get a lot of abuse," Burger explained. "You want to have something that will stand up to the vandals."

That said, concrete restroom buildings don't need to be uninviting or unattractive gray cinderblocks. "You can texture the concrete any way you'd like," Burger said. "You can make it look like wood, brick, metal, stone—anything, really. That way it allows the customers to get all the benefits of our little bomb shelter while having it match the architectural details of the park."

The prefabricated concrete buildings are all pre-designed, which is built into the price of the facility. "The cost of the building is the cost of everything," Burger said. "That includes the plumbing, the electrical—everything is ready to use."

A lot of customers appreciate that the buildings are pre-engineered and delivered on site in one day, Smith added. "That means minimal site disturbance," he said. "We're in and out in one day."

Pre-engineered structures also come in a variety of sizes, from one-toilet, unisex facilities to large restrooms with changing areas for infants and plenty of stalls.