Problem Solver - August 2011
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Add Tough, Weather-Resistant Restrooms

Sometimes you can't avoid it. You have to site restroom structures in locations that are subject to harsh weather conditions. And with many severe weather events making news in recent years—from tornadoes and hurricanes to overwhelming "snowmageddons"—you might be wondering what you should look for to ensure your restrooms can stand up to the abuse. It helps to plan well up front, and purchase restroom structures that are built to handle strong weather—or even human abuse.

Q: We are prone to severe weather in the area. What should we look for in a restroom structure to ensure it can handle the heavy snow loads of winter and strong storms of early summer?

A: When you're looking for a restroom facility that is able to withstand extreme weather, not to mention daily use and abuse, choose one that has high-strength precast concrete roofs and walls that meet all local building codes. Also, look for a structure with steel door frames and window frames cast into the concrete walls so no bolts or fasteners can come loose. This ensures they will be locked into place, and won't blow off or be able to be ripped off.

A building whose concrete panels are welded together, much like sidewalk blocks, will give you an extra leg up on the elements, making the structure practically as strong as a small bomb shelter, and at least able to withstand severe weather conditions, including heavy snows, winds, hurricanes, zone-4 seismic loads, flooding and mud.

Precast concrete restrooms are one of the best options when you're looking for a structure that will be extremely durable. Many of these buildings are also available prefabricated and delivered complete and ready to use, including plumbing and electrical, where that's needed. The all-concrete construction means the buildings are rot- and rust-resistant, easy to maintain and able to withstand the toughest abuse—both natural and manmade.

Q: We're aware that vandalism can be a problem in park restrooms. Is there a way to prevent it from becoming an issue?

A: Vandalism can take just as harsh a toll on your facility as inclement weather. A facility that's been tagged by graffiti artists or damaged by vandals shows others that no one cares. It might even imply that crime is not noticed in the area. Even if your weather is perfect year-round, you'll want to find a restroom structure that can deter vandals.

Once again, precast concrete restrooms are a great option. Concrete is more durable than many other materials and can withstand a lot of abuse—even gunshots.

Graffiti, on the other hand, is difficult to prevent entirely. Studies show that there's nearly a zero recurrence rate when graffiti is removed within 48 hours. On the other hand, if you let graffiti remain for two weeks or longer, the recurrence rate shoots up to 100 percent.

In order to deter graffiti, install proper lighting and consider motion detectors, rather than light switches. A poorly lit restroom will be a target for nighttime vandals.

Q: What can we do inside the restroom structure to protect it from problems?

A: There are specific things to look for inside the restroom structure to help extend the facility's life and discourage vandalism. Soap and paper towel dispensers can be built into the wall. Wall vents, grab bars and toilet paper holders are available with tamper-resistant screws that will further stop abuse.


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