Locker Rooms and Restrooms
By Ryan Pfund
Soaring utility costs have jolted every American homeowner and business operator. Few businesses feel the effects of escalating bills for electricity, heat and water more than recreation, sports and fitness facilities that often operate 18 or more hours a day.
Spas and health clubs have become refuges where burned-out Americans release tensions working out under bright lights, then unwinding in hot tubs, showers, saunas and steam rooms. Thanks to heightened awareness of the health benefits of staying fit, demand for learn-to-swim centers, health clubs and recreation facilities is on the rise. And with more fitness centers and other aquatic entertainment venues being built every day, so does competition.
How can club managers or facility owners attract and retain more patrons, yet operate efficiently in the midst of dramatic increases in utility costs? Whether you are building a new facility or updating an existing one, you will realize restrooms and locker rooms afford ideal opportunities for containing utility costs—especially if you incorporate elements found in green buildings. Green buildings use a minimum of nonrenewable energy, produce less waste and pollution, and increase the comfort, health and safety of the people who live and work in them.
Conservationists are concerned particularly about the global shortage of water, with many parts of the United States affected. According to GreenBiz.com, a leading nonprofit information resource for business, commercial buildings use about 9.5 billion gallons each day. Compound this number for waterparks and other recreational facilities that specialize in aquatic activities.
Your facility can implement a number of changes that will give your locker rooms a fresh, new look while incorporating significant water-saving strategies. Specifying low-flow fixtures, metered faucets and waterless urinals, for example, can reduce water consumption by more than 30 percent. This can translate to major cost savings in water and sewer bills, as well as energy costs for heating water.
Although installing green products and more efficient fixtures may add costs upfront, their advanced technology can save money over the building's life cycle. Newer fixtures as part of a restroom renovation also can mean less maintenance and greater resistance against vandalism.Efficient plumbing fixtures
Replacing existing toilets that use as much as 4.5 gallons per flush (gpf) with low-volume toilets that use only 1.6 gpf can save a substantial percent in total water use. Additional water savings are possible with sensor-activated flush meters that control the water used during peak times.
Innovative new technologies also are being incorporated into sinks or lavatory systems. Photovoltaic cells integrated into the top of a lavatory system can store and use energy collected from normal restroom lighting—and that energy can power the lavatory's sensors and valves. Facility managers will be happy to know these units operate without expensive batteries and without any electricity. Eliminating batteries also cuts down on the number of batteries that are sent to landfills each year—a key goal for sustainable, green building.
Although many local codes require a maximum of 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) for lavatories and faucets, specifying lavatories that use just 0.5 gpm can save additional water. Other water-saving options are infrared or metered faucets on lavatories, which ensure that water is only running when a user activates the faucet.
To decrease energy costs for heating water, consider installing lavatories with tankless water heaters. These newer devices provide hot water on demand and are concealed within the pedestal of the lavatory system. Hand-washing fixtures with tankless heaters only require a cold-water source. Just the hot water needed at the faucet is heated, rather than requiring a hot-water tank in a distant area of the building.
Here are some other steps you can take to upgrade your restrooms and locker rooms, make them more appealing to visitors and save money in the long run:
To save water and update the look of your facility, replace old sinks, toilets and urinals in restrooms and locker rooms with more efficient models. Removing stained or cracked china lavs and replacing them with solid-surface lavatory systems can not only make restrooms more attractive, they also will be more functional. Because lavatory systems require fewer connections and rough-ins, you will save on installation labor costs and can afford to invest in a higher quality product.
Lavatory systems have other features that save money and keep restrooms tidier, such as built-in soap dispensers that drip right into the bowl and infrared sensors that shut off water flow after use.
If the budget only allows for replacing faucets, look for new fixtures with capacitive sensing technology. Capacitive sensing eliminates many of the frustrations commonly found with infrared-controlled faucets. This new technology creates an omni-directional detection zone that surrounds the entire spout of a faucet, rather than a small sensor window for greater ease-of-use.
Improving shower areas is sure to please patrons. To curb water usage, specify low-flow showerheads that use 2 gpm, rather than those that use 3 gpm or more. For additional savings, install showers with metering valves. Electronic metering valves are extremely reliable and can be set with a longer running time to eliminate flow interruption after 15 seconds.
When memberships are important to maintain business, it is vital that showers offer a clean and appealing finish to invite visitors to use the facilities. Solid-surface shower pans offer an attractive alternative to tile and will be easier to clean and maintain. Stainless-steel showers and shower accessories provide a crisp, clean look in the shower room. Selecting the perfect shower water temperature is a feature that users at high-end facilities expect. It is easy, and safe, to do with pressure balancing or thermostatic shower valves.
New shower fixtures with the latest pressure-balancing valves that incorporate long-lasting European ceramic cartridge technology can help reduce maintenance. These long-lasting cartridges have no wearing parts that will need to be replaced, and the valves allow for back-to-back wall installation, saving on installation and construction costs.
Rusted-out lockers with multiple layers of chipping paint obviously do not create an aesthetically pleasing locker room. If that describes your facility's locker room, give it a face-lift by replacing metal lockers with attractive, new, solid plastic lockers. They never require painting, and they will not rust or deteriorate in moist locker room environments. Even better, plastic lockers are available in a range of bright or neutral color options.
Although plastic lockers have a higher initial cost, over the long run they can be much more cost-effective than metal because of their low maintenance.
In a hotly competitive market, managers of recreation facilities must continually review the factors that members and visitors weigh in deciding which club to join or which facility to use. In addition to selling points such as your sports equipment, water features, admission or membership fees, do not overlook the appearance and amenities of your restrooms and locker rooms. The atmosphere they provide is increasingly important to consumers choosing among competing facilities.
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