Feature Article - October 2016
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Stop & Go

Style & Maintenance Needs Key to Choosing Restroom Structures

By Deborah L. Vence

Choosing a restroom structure involves more than just cost. You also have to consider upkeep, access to the restroom and which variety would best suit your location, which can make a difference in how easy or difficult it is to maintain.

"One of the most important aspects of getting favorable park responses is to have great restrooms. The cleaner and better maintained a restroom is, the more the public will use it and have a positive opinion of your parks," said Gary Burger, national sales manager for a Spokane, Wash.-based manufacturer of concrete restrooms, showers, concessions and storage buildings. "And, finding a restroom that makes it easy for you to do that will go a long way toward giving your users a great park experience," he said.

The Do's and Don'ts

When deciding on a restroom structure, experts suggest some do's and don'ts to keep in mind.

Do's and don'ts really depend on "what type you want to use," noted Glenn Rachak, president of a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company that manufactures high-end custom buildings, including restroom structures. "Flush facilities are always an option." But, "If you are looking to save water, they will use a lot of water."

"Look at manufacturers and see what's out there and what type of area that's out there. [Is there] high vandalism [in the area?]," he added.

Another "do" is to look for a restroom structure that is designed for easy maintenance.

Preventing vandalism of restroom structures or at least keeping it to a minimum can be a challenge.

"High-strength precast concrete roofs and walls that are welded together will ensure your restroom can handle tough conditions, including inclement weather," Burger said. "Look for steel doors and window frames that are cast into the concrete walls and have tamper-resistant heads. A precast restroom is generally durable and easy to maintain. All-concrete construction withstands rot and rust, further simplifying maintenance."

Also, pay close attention to how the interior of your structure is designed.

"Have all fixtures wall hung with the water valves hidden in a maintenance chase to prevent damage. Keep all fixtures low profile," Burger said. "Soap and paper towel dispensers should be built into the wall. Tamper-resistant screws used for wall vents, grab bars and toilet paper holders will also prevent trouble. Lights should use high-impact plastic covers. There should be no exposed conduit for vandals to tear off," he said.

Another point is to properly estimate your need.

"I would say location is enormous in many situations. One reason is the simple thing of cost. We're the only ones who make flush restrooms that are not connected to utilities. There's a huge difference in cost," said Kyle Earlywine, co-owner of a Vancouver, Wash.-based company that manufactures flush restroom buildings that operate without connections to sewer, water or electrical utilities. Also, "You don't want to put a restroom in a situation where no one is going to see it."

Design sizing for fixture count also is important to allow more women's fixtures than men's, noted Chuck Kaufman, president of a Minden, Nev.-based manufacturer of prefabricated public restrooms and buildings.

"Restroom design throughput is nominally two minutes for use by females and one minute for males. Most designers, when local law permits, design with one-third more women's fixtures to accommodate this cycle to prevent lines at the entry," Kaufman said.

"A second consideration is to over-ventilate the restroom space. The most important 'do' for restrooms is to design with non-absorbent surfaces to prevent odors," he said. "New special materials allow waterproof concrete and other additives or coating to maintain an odor- free space by design."

In addition, you should "work with a reliable firm with a track record of success and code compliance," said William Burt, marking manager for a Roseburg, Ore.-based company that manufactures portable restroom buildings.

And, "don't work without design documents that have been approved by the owner of the facility and the governing building department," he said.