Feature Article - September 2018
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A Necessary Service

Restroom Structures Take On Different Situations

By Deborah L. Vence

A Variety of Designs

There are different types of restroom structures, with park restroom designs centering on both function and materials, Kaufman said.

For example, "waterless restrooms (prefab and site built) use holding tanks and offsite disposal of waste for trail sites and remote to septic or sewer availability. When final location of the building is accessible to delivery trucks and cranes, prefab is normal," he said. "When the site is remote and difficult for access, site-built becomes advantageous."

Another example is prefabricated waterborne fully assembled park restrooms that connect to septic or site sewers. In this case, Kaufman said, the manufacturer provides all the design and engineering to provide a building that is fully assembled. Installation is generally part of the offering as well.

Also, site-constructed restrooms that used to dominate the market now are trending toward prefab. "Today," he said, "very large restrooms or combination buildings that do not lend themselves to prefabrication for architectural reasons are some of those that remain site-built."

Other types include erector set packages of partial building materials and building plans for site contractors to erect on site. "There are times prefabricated buildings cannot reach site destinations due to access issues. For these applications, the erector set packages can make sense," Kaufman said.

Another consideration is volunteer labor and material construction. "There are still some smaller communities with lower tax bases [that] still turn to local materials vendors, local engineers and architects, and local labor to volunteer for park building construction," he said.

The various types of restrooms Worthington mentioned include restroom buildings with showers for campgrounds; those with concessions and storage rooms for athletic complexes; with picnic pavilion overhangs; with emergency generators; with large community rooms and storage areas for multiple sports organizations; with solar power arrays on the roof; and dry-composting restroom buildings, which do not require pump-outs of vault tanks.

Zentarsky added a few more:

  • Retractable bathroom pods for nighttime use.
  • All-concrete designed buildings for longevity and ease of maintenance.
  • Buildings that are functional yet pieces of artwork.
  • Urinals attached to hay bales.

From a global perspective, Earlywine said that in many parts of the world people do not sit down on toilets, but instead, prefer to squat over a hole in the ground where the toilet would go.

"This is nothing new," he said, "but what is relatively new is that a greater number of tourists from these areas are coming to the United States and standing on top of the toilet then squatting over it.

"If your park gets a lot of international tourists and you are finding a lot more human waste on the toilet seat, then you may want to consider adding a sign asking people to sit, not stand, on the toilet seat. Using a picture is best," he said.

In Europe, there are sit, don't squat pictures. "And, I would say they don't use different toilets, different sinks, but they do use restrooms differently," he said. "One thing is that they are simply more abundant in Europe.

And, "The demand is much higher. [Some places] charge for restrooms, and [you have to] pay a euro to get into the restroom. It works out really well. Most people have money on them. The ones we saw were in train stations, and other public areas. [But], most were not pay," he said.

What's more, he noted the efforts being made in the developing world for better sanitation, such as by the Gates Foundation, an organization committed to establishing cheap and sustainable sanitation. (The foundation's effort focuses on "developing innovative approaches and technologies that can lead to radical and sustainable improvements in sanitation in the developing world," according to information from www.gatesfoundation.org.)