Feature Article - October 2015
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Safe Stops

For Restroom Structures, Security Is Crucial

By Rick Dandes

Vandal Proofing

From the perspective of security and availability, you'll find park restrooms locked at night or when the recreational area is closed, said Tharpe. "Many facilities have sophisticated timing systems so doors can be remotely locked and unlocked. In some cases locks are satellite-controlled.

"In the inner-city park, vandalism is a big issue," he added. "Security has to be high. A concrete restroom is solid and not flammable, and it is steel-reinforced. The door system has to be durable and rugged as well as the lock system. That would basically be the difference."

In urban areas, vandalism such as spray painting might be common, depending upon the surface of the building. Anti-graffiti coatings make it easier to remove the graffiti—a problem that must be addressed rapidly to prevent it from growing to an epidemic.

There are also maintenance and cleaning issues because inner-city restrooms are used more frequently. Restrooms should be designed with materials such as stainless-steel fixtures that can be hosed down, making cleaning simple.

To help prevent vandalism, lighting should be recessed so that you can't knock a bulb out. The restroom of course has to be well lit. Windows should be heavy duty so that they can't be kicked out.

The whole country is moving in the direction of being self-sustaining, green. A concrete restroom by its very nature is green in the sense that the concrete is locally available, so you have the green aspect of transportation; everything is recyclable, including the reinforcing steel, most everything inside it is recyclable, and the roof is concrete so you won't have to replace shingles. You won't have to paint it because it is already stained.

"The future could bring some cool things for restrooms," Earlywine said. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made improving sanitation in the developing world one of its primary goals. Millions of dollars and some great talent is being used to innovate on restrooms in some fundamental ways so it's possible that one day their work will become relevant to public restrooms here in America.