Feature Article - September 2009
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Designed For Use-and Abuse

Selecting Restroom Structures to Suit Your Site

By Emily Tipping

Go Anywhere

Of course, the type of restroom structure you choose will depend a great deal on your site. You have the option of going with a flush facility when you've got plumbing hookups nearby, but if that's not an option, that doesn't mean you're limited to a smelly solution. Manufacturers have come up with vault restrooms and even composting solutions that are odor-free and can be shipped just about anywhere.

Your site and the type of use your facility will get will help determine "…the size of the facility, the number of people it can handle per hour and per day," said Alex Rachak. "You want to go with something that's not overkill, but at the same time it can't be too small."

Again, it comes back to thinking about maintenance. If you're going with a vault facility, you'll want to consider how often it will need to be pumped out. Luckily, manufacturers have developed technology that allows for less frequent pumping—even when the facility is seeing plenty of use.

"We have a couple of large facilities for the Forest Service that are getting hundreds of uses a day, but they don't require frequent pumping," said Rachak. "At Berthoud Pass in North Central Colorado there's a facility that's been in for a year, and it's their building, but it has our patented WRS technology. It has not had to be pumped yet. We were just up there to look at it, and determined that maybe it would need to be pumped next year. We have other structures located on golf courses that have been going for six years now."

Glen Rachak, current president of the same Colorado-based manufacturer, agreed that the right technology can drastically reduce pumpouts. One facility he said, saw 50,000 users a year, but didn't need to be pumped for a full four years. "If the vault is big enough, it reduces the number of pumpouts required while still providing an odor-free restroom," he said.

Take the Vail Ski Area's Bells Camp location—11,000 feet above sea level—for example. "They have holding tanks up there at Vail because they get so many uses at the top of that mountain," said Glen Rachak. "But they can't run a sewer to the top of the mountain. With those holding tanks, they can get up there after the snow thaws and pump it out."

When it comes to restrooms without water, preventing odors from building up—or sinking in—is another reason to consider prefabricated structures.

"Odorous restrooms are just the pits," said Chuck Kaufman, president of a restroom building manufacturer based in Nevada. "People just won't use them. They'll just find another place. Parks are really clamoring for these restrooms that don't smell." (See "Clean Up Time" on page 24 to learn more about how manufacturers are preventing odors and bacteria in bathrooms.)

"What we're achieving with these prefab buildings for odor control with chemicals and technology can't be done in the field," Kaufman added. As an example, he cited a 22-year-old waterless facility in Truckee, Calif., where he recently sent some new employees.

"In a waterless facility, this technology is even more important because there's no water there to hose it out," he said. His new employees were surprised at the lack of odor in the facility. "In canyons, on top of mountains—I don't care where we put it, this technology of making the slabs nonabsorbent works."