Feature Article - September 2009
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Designed For Use-and Abuse

Selecting Restroom Structures to Suit Your Site

By Emily Tipping

Customization Options

So what if you're looking to ensure your new park restrooms fit in with the look of your historic downtown area, the natural look and feel of your desert site, or some other customized look? You might think that you're stuck with the longer-term, more costly option of having something designed from scratch and constructed on site, but you'd be wrong.

"We encourage our customers to let us be the engineers, and they can actually be the designers," said Alex Rachak. "Tell us what you want, what you're looking for, and we can design it for you. So if we need to, we can match historic buildings, and so on."

In East Bay, Calif., the customized restroom buildings blend in with the natural surroundings. "In some of our remote parks, the only structure a person sees that is not a part of the natural background is the restroom," said Dennis Waespi, sanitation supervisor for the East Bay Regional Park District.

When you work with the right vendor, you can customize anything from the floor plan to the siding and roofs, as well as interior fixtures. Sometimes you can also extend the customization to include more than restrooms. You need a shower facility near a beach? No problem. How about a concession stand and storage room next to the ballfield? Not an issue.

When the Turtle Back Zoo in Essex County, N.J., opened a new area patterned after the old-time "Jersey Shore," they made the centerpiece a custom-built carousel populated by a menagerie of endangered animals. They also wanted the nearby comfort station, with its restroom facilities and concession area, to fit right in. Landscape architect Mike Piga of French & Parrello Associates in Wall, N.J., designed a classic 12-sided carousel building, but designing the comfort station to match was tricky.

The restroom structure—an octagonal-shaped comfort station with five unisex, single-user restrooms—does share features with the carousel building, including copper gutters, sky-blue stainless-steel standing-seam roofs, cultured stone and plaster exteriors, and antique-style lighting fixtures. Photometric lighting control and radiant floor heating makes the facility a little greener.

Summing It Up

So whether you're going with a customized flush facility for your urban park or a vault that can handle users at a very remote site, you have plenty of options. With the current concerns about cost, prefab is a great option, and addresses long-term costs as well.

"Again I think the biggest thing right now is nobody has any money," Burger said. "So you need to get back to looking for features that reduce your maintenance cost, reduce your overall life-cycle cost and look for a very cost-effective solution up front. People still want a restroom in the park—it's part of the park experience, but you can do it cost-effectively and inexpensively by increasing the life cycle of your facilities."