Guest Column - February 2013
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Locker Rooms & Restrooms

Greening Locker Rooms & Restrooms
Sustainable Design Evolves, Locking in Style & Savings

By Kris Alderson

Locker rooms and restrooms represent a critical piece of the recreational facility management puzzle, as many view them as one of the most important building elements. The majority (60 percent) of recreational facility owners and managers report that these high-traffic areas are the most commonly included amenity in such establishments, according to the Recreation Management 2012 State of the Industry Report. Ask any patron, and they'll tell you locker rooms and restrooms are a big deal to them, too.

The business challenge is keeping these critical areas cost-efficient and in good condition. A growing solution lies in green building strategies that gain efficiencies while curbing building expenditures due to reduced water and energy usage. Products used in sustainable design also provide benefits such as durability, low-maintenance, attractive styling, user convenience, hygiene and even safety.

Here is a review of the latest green technology and trends used in locker room and restroom design.

Sustainable Materials Promote Durability

More manufacturers are incorporating sustainable materials into restroom and locker room products, which—in addition to environmental benefits—can increase the maintainability and life span of these products. For fixtures such as lockers, lavatories and partitions, natural and recycled materials are more commonly used. Likewise, there is a greater demand for products that are GREENGUARD-certified, which means the product contributes to indoor air quality by meeting strict chemical and particle emission standards.

For example, solid surface lavatory countertops made of recycled materials and rapidly renewable material help ensure long-term durability, ease of cleaning and long-term maintenance. Solid surface resists stains, chemicals, scratches and heat, which reduces the likelihood of repairs and the need for replacements, making them a good choice for high-volume, high-abuse washrooms. Surface marks and scratches are repaired easily with everyday cleaners or fine-grit abrasives, making the material very easy to clean and maintain.

One of the newest durable natural materials available for lavatory fixtures is a molded natural quartz material that can be sculpted into a range of attractive design options, including subtle curves and radius edges. Composed of an eco-friendly resin made of soy and corn, natural quartz costs less than granite and is virtually maintenance-free, since it does not require sealing, buffing or reconditioning. In addition, its smooth, seamless finish has a non-porous surface, so it does not support microbial growth.

Likewise, lockers and toilet partitions made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) solid plastic are very hard-wearing and are better for the environment. To illustrate, each locker made from HDPE is equivalent to 500 recycled milk jugs that otherwise may have ended up in a landfill. This solid plastic material is also easy to maintain and clean, and holds up well to heavy usage, especially in wet humid conditions in locker rooms and restrooms near swimming areas.

When comparing solid plastic lockers with metal, plastic is a better material choice because it remains unaffected by moisture and is rust-resistant. In addition to being odor-resistant, solid plastic lockers are designed to withstand impact, dents and scratches that would easily damage metal lockers and never need to be repainted. With solid plastic, maintenance staff can easily wipe away dirt, graffiti, paint and markers with everyday cleaners and even use a hose for fast washdown. Conversely, old, rusted-out metal lockers with chipping paint not only look bad, but also raise maintenance concerns and can leave a bad impression of the facility with patrons.