Feature Article - September 2009
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Designed For Use-and Abuse

Selecting Restroom Structures to Suit Your Site

By Emily Tipping


"Durability is the number-one consideration," Burger said. And a big part of durability, he added, is the facility's ability to stand up to vandalism.

"For some reason, the focus of most vandals in the park is the restroom," he added. "Look for vandal-resistant features like siding and interior finishes that resist graffiti, that resist any kind of vandalism." You don't want materials that can be carved up or burnt down, and that likely means you're going to end up with precast concrete, or some other sturdy material.

Durability was an important consideration in Alaska's Mat-Su area, where old worn-out restrooms in the area's state parks are being replaced with new prefabricated restrooms that are tough enough to take just about any kind of abuse.

As Mat-Su area State Parks Superintendent Wayne Biessel said in a story in the Anchorage Daily News ("State parks install sturdy restrooms," by Rindi White), the new structures will be "essentially bombproof; they are fireproof, bulletproof, all the things we typically have to deal with in parks for maintenance costs."

As part of the project, about 20 restrooms have been or will be replaced. A crane sets the toilet buildings in place, and they're already getting positive reviews from employees who have to clean the facilities as well as park users.

Fixtures, too, should be considered for their ability to withstand abuse. "Look for things like the quality of the fixtures and the quality of the overall design to make sure the fixtures and features are designed to withstand heavy abuse and vandalism," Burger said.

"The public is pretty hard on restrooms," Aller explained. The good news is that his city's structures are holding up well. "We've had some issues with sand in the lines that was not the fault of the restrooms, but we're working that out. It's kind of a work in progress, too."

For example, the city has chosen a different type of lock so people wouldn't lock the deadbolt from the inside and then try to smash off the locking mechanism.

"We ordered the next set with just the key on the outside, but flat on the inside, so you just use the dormitory lock on the handle to lock the door," Aller said. In addition to working out the vandalism problem, this solution also meets ADA requirements.

The restroom's graffiti coating also works well, he added.