Feature Article - October 2016
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Stop & Go

Style & Maintenance Needs Key to Choosing Restroom Structures

By Deborah L. Vence

New smart building monitoring systems are available that lock your doors at night and will notify you by text or e-mail that someone has entered the room.

"There is a whole list of items that go ahead of this," he said, such as, "putting it in areas that are not going to be hidden, increasing visibility. If you are going to do bad things here, you are likely to get caught. If you are going to put it in a park, there are going to be eyes on it; put it close to the sidewalk, not hidden among a bunch of trees."

Similarly, Burger said proper lighting and motion detectors are a good idea, as nighttime vandals will usually avoid well-lit areas.

"New smart building monitoring systems are available that lock your doors at night and will notify you by text or e-mail that someone has entered the room," he said.

What's more, he said the No. 1 reason for vandalism in restroom facilities is "a lack of toilet paper, so you should be sure you are regularly checking to ensure there is plenty."

Look for a restroom, he said, that features toilet paper holders designed to prevent theft.

"It's best to try to prevent graffiti and vandalism. Begin by looking for restrooms that deter vandalism. Concrete structures are durable and can withstand a lot of abuse," Burger said. "They can be coated with anti-graffiti coatings that make cleaning the graffiti off a snap. When graffiti does occur, be sure to take care of the problem quickly. Studies show that when graffiti is removed within 48 hours, the recurrence rate will be close to zero."

Kaufman said his company's method of dealing with vandalism is to design with rugged materials that do not challenge and include economical methods of correcting damage from graffiti.

"While our components are extra heavy and non-breakable, such as CMU toilet partitions, thick stainless steel door handles and masonry exteriors, they are designed to not challenge," he said.

Tips on Maintenance

Of course, a big factor in keeping your patrons happy with your restroom structures is keeping them clean.

One suggestion is to always have trash cans available. "It helps tremendously from keeping trash [thrown] down the toilet," Rachak said, adding that it's also important to choose sustainable products. Steel doors are a good option.

If you are going to invest in a flush restroom, "keeping it clean is really good ROI, in terms of returning happy visitors," Earlywine said.

Meanwhile, other experts say good restroom maintenance begins with the design of the facility.

"Owners should select design options that improve the ease of maintenance for the building. Concrete floors, for example, if left untreated, get stained, which can lead to a 'dirty' appearance in the restroom," Burt said. "Keeping floors clean, and, in fact, the whole building is easier when floors are tile or epoxy coated because they can be easily cleaned. People tend to trash a clean restroom less than one that appears dirty."

The same concept applies to walls and fixtures. So, selecting options like FRP for walls (fiberglass reinforced plastic) and china fixtures make cleaning easier.

"All of these features provide the additional benefit of being fairly non-absorbent, which means that smells can be easily cleansed from the building and do not build up over time," Burt said. "Porous surfaces, like untreated concrete or wood, will harbor odor and stains. The bottom line is that it is an added cost, but treating the building surfaces vastly improves the maintenance of the facility."

Another good design consideration to improve maintenance is adding structural features to the building. Adding storage for cleaning supplies and toiletries is a great benefit.

"Having everything needed to maintain the facility available on-site makes maintenance of the facility even easier," he said. "Other features like covered entries, porches and roof extensions prevent dirt, leaves and other things on the ground from being tracked into the building. Some structural considerations like these can also make a building easier to maintain."

Kaufman's best suggestion is to design and build with more expensive components that are proven to hold up to the environment unsupervised park restrooms face. "Our firm has had to create our own components to meet this criterion as vendors continue to engineer out cost of their components only to face more frequent replacement due to light-duty designs," he said.

Burt added that like vandalism, maintenance is a holistic approach and not every option is necessary in every application. "It is important for the building owner to figure out what resources are available for each location and then to get a building suitable for the specific site," he said.

Once your restroom structure is installed, you should create a schedule for regular maintenance sweeps.

"Staff should inspect the restroom for damage or vandalism, check and refill toiletries, and clean the facility at regular intervals," Burger said. "When you choose the right structure, cleaning will be simple. Soapy water or disinfectant solution can be used on walls, riser and floor of precast restrooms. You can also remove the toilet paper and then hose out the entire facility."

If your park is located in an area that experiences freezing temperatures and your facility is unheated, he suggested, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to winterize your restroom structure in order to prevent costly damage.