Feature Article - September 2010
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Friendly Amenities

Making Decisions About Restroom Structures

By Richard Zowie

The Nose Knows

There are several types of toilets that you can use in your facilities. The most commonly used include flush and vault. Vault toilets are most commonly seen in portable toilets or in facilities that do not have access to a city water supply.

While the vaults often might be associated with less-than-desirable smells, Brubaker said they do indeed have their advantages.

"They're year-round and don't require a service hookup," Brubaker said. "They're very low cost and can be used in national park services."

Furthermore, he said, some are even well designed and ventilation is not a problem. In the winter, the smells commonly associated with toilets can even be neutralized. And, some manufacturers have developed specific technology to eliminate problem odors year-round.

An environmentally friendly variant, compost toilets use very little—if any—water and treat the waste so it can be used as compost for fertilizer.

Think compost toilets will have a bad odor? Think again.

"Composting toilets overcome the odor problem with ventilation systems," Galvin explained. "They also offer extra advantages of nutrient recycling, odor management, infrequent removal events, and the option of a foam-flush toilet."

She added, "Users are given a sense of familiarity with the foam-flush toilet that looks and feels like a conventional toilet."

One site that uses foam-flush toilets is the Mountain Park Environmental Center in Pueblo, Colo. They installed the first set of restrooms two years ago and the second set last year. They have both men's and women's restrooms along with private bathrooms in the overnight rooms.

Also, seven restrooms share four unisex restrooms.

"We were told foam-flush toilets were somewhat easier to keep clean," said the center's executive director, Dave van Manen. "What's really important to us is cleanliness. We want restrooms to be clean."

Being in Colorado, foam-flush toilets carry with them a special importance: in the arid southwest, water tends to be a precious commodity. And since water could be scarcer in the future, the toilets could save the Mountain Park Environmental Center even more of its natural resources.

"[Customers] think it's so awesome that a flush uses six ounces of water and saves even more water than the water-saving toilets which use around 100 ounces," van Manen. "We have signs that explain to push a button before and after use to help keep it clean."