Feature Article - September 2010
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Friendly Amenities

Making Decisions About Restroom Structures

By Richard Zowie

Coming Right Up

What developments will take hold as restroom structure manufacturers further enhance their offerings, and park directors find ways to improve their facilities?

Tharpe believes there will be more of a drive for modular preassembled restrooms that can be quickly assembled. The market also seems to like functional restrooms that don't require plumbing.

"[Restrooms] will be more complex oriented rather than more single restrooms, especially in parks and recreation areas, where you'll get more functionality out of that space," he explained.

The bottom line: creating things that are less expensive.

Brubaker believes there will be more family restrooms. In other words, where you would have seen one men's and one women's restroom, there will be two family restrooms instead. He also sees more labyrinth-style entrances along with more establishments putting up signs to show where their restroom is. More specifically, Brubaker thinks building codes will change where business will be required to put up signs to show customers where their restroom is.

While environmentally-friendly restrooms are a current trend, Galvin believes it's also the future as conservation will be taken to new levels.

"A well-planned restroom uses, at most, ounces of water for flushing yet supplies a level of comfort and familiarity similar to being at home," she said. Environmentally friendly facilities can "achieve this and provide an opportunity to educate the user about composting, nutrient recycling and water conservation all at once."

On School Grounds

Another trend, noted by Chuck Kaufman, of a restroom manufacturer based in Reno, Nev., is a tendency toward shared use of school playgrounds. In other words, where schools used to lock the gates when the day was done, now they're leaving their facilities open for use by the community.

"It's obviously helpful in that the park agencies do not have to buy new land," Kaufman said. "The majority of this application is taking place in major cities," where land for new parks is limited.

But, he added, the joint-use agreements can raise some issues when it comes to adding things like concession buildings or restroom structures.

Taking the state of California as an example, Kaufman said. "You can't put a building on a school ground without a lot of scrutiny, and the costs can go off the charts."

The planning involved requires a higher level of attention, with stricter fire restrictions and other rules requiring more care to be given to how the building is designed.

This is something park administrators should be aware of before they get involved in these joint-use arrangements. But that shouldn't stop you from setting up such a win-win situation.

Just be aware of code requirements, and if you want to go with a premanufactured structure, be sure you're working with a manufacturer that already offers buildings that fit the requirements, or one who can customize their structures to meet the stricter rules.