Feature Article - October 2016
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Stop & Go

Style & Maintenance Needs Key to Choosing Restroom Structures

By Deborah L. Vence

Different Varieties

The types of restroom structures available include both water/flush and waterless.

The flush restroom probably is the most familiar. "Everybody knows [this type of restroom]. It's what's in your office and house; and what you hope to see when you go to the park," Earlywine said, adding that the vault toilet is the most common. "It's low-maintenance and cost-effective."

Earlywine also noted that with flush restrooms, it's important to have fixtures. A good chunk of restrooms won't have a sink. And moms, for example, want to be able to have the convenience of taking their kids into the restroom where there is a sink to wash up.

Conventional restrooms are connected to water, sewer and power, and are differentiated by offering single-occupant or unisex restrooms, or separate male and female multi-user rooms.

"They can be outfitted with storage rooms and mechanical/utility rooms that can be small or spacious," Burt said.

But, public restrooms also can be furnished without water and power for remote sites or within urban locations.

"The waterless applications are either holding tanks, composting or portable facilities," Kaufman said. "The urban applications are water borne with sewer, septic or holding tanks. Solar for lighting is also now offered, but seldom used."

Waterless restrooms don't require flushing to operate. "These facilities are also called vault toilets, pit toilets or dry toilets," Burt said. "These restrooms may or may not have electrical and [our company] often supplies solar packages when utility power is not available."

For example, one type of dry toilet is a compost toilet that typically uses little to no water.

"There's a wide variety. You have compost toilets and evaporative toilets," Earlywine noted. "But, they are really all the same [in that] they don't use water. They are over a vault, and there will be odor."

The benefits of waterless toilets include the fact that they require lower maintenance with less fuss and are opened year round.

And though compost toilets can be expensive to maintain, "you don't have to pump them as often," Earlywine said.

Burt's company offers more than 15 standard models for waterless restrooms, and has many more custom models available.

"These facilities range from single-user structures to six-room structures. Smaller models can be prefabricated from polyethylene for lightweight and durable structures, but we also construct waterless restrooms out of concrete block for more robust facilities," he said.

Burger also suggested asking "your manufacturer about the capacity of your vault, and then talk with your pump service provider about usage and set up regular service.

"If you look for a vault that features Sweet Smelling technology, developed by the U.S. Forest Service to facilitate maximum airflow to reduce smells and odors," he added, "you will not need to add any chemicals to the vault to keep it smelling fresh and clean."

Dealing with Vandalism

Preventing vandalism of restroom structures or at least keeping it to a minimum can be a challenge. But, some options exist to help defend against intentional damage.

"In most cases, these options do a great job in mitigating vandalism. These include features like graffiti-proof coatings for building interiors and exteriors, stainless steel fixtures and components, and advanced security options," Burt said.

However, beyond building a tougher restroom, vandalism also can be addressed as a facet of restroom ownership.

"In many cases, budgeting for replacement parts and maintenance contracts or personnel can be a better approach than relying on vandalism prevention features," Burt said. "In certain areas, stainless steel still gets vandalized and an owner could replace somewhere from seven to 10 china toilets for the cost of a single stainless steel one."

So, the best way to deal with vandalism is to understand the potential at each specific site and to create a long-term plan relative to the needs of the facility.

"There are many features that can be added, but restroom owners should know which features need to be added and will be effective for the management of their facility," Burt said.

So, some vandal-resistant choices include "graffiti coatings you can put on the building," he said.

Some of these paints are sacrificial and others are non-sacrificial. Sacrificial coatings provide a clear barrier over the surface. Non-sacrificial coatings provide a protective surface. Spray paint can't adhere to this type of surface. And, this type of paint coating helps provide easier removal of graffiti.

Another way to help ward off vandals is to install fake video cameras, which have decreased vandalism in some places by 99 percent.

"It actually works," Rachak said. "I've seen them where they put them on the building or put one camera out on a pole, maybe about 20 feet in the air. They cost about $29 or $30 apiece."

Adding lighting around a structure can help, too, so it can be more visible. It does reduce criminal activity, Earlywine said.