Reducing Maintenance & Water Use
By Ryan Pfund
The best solution also depends on the application. Members of an upscale fitness center have different expectations for the showers than visitors using a community recreation center, and the requirements for these different types of facilities are vastly different. In a recreation center, vandal resistance is a key consideration because students using the facility for after-school programs often tend to abuse restroom and shower room fixtures. Elite fitness clubs need to cater to members' discerning tastes.
In busy areas used mostly for rinsing off, such as near swimming pools, column showers offer an efficient option for accommodating a high volume of users. For such applications, it is critical to look for fixtures designed for commercial use, and that can withstand nearly constant use. Choosing commercial-grade shower fixtures with vandal-resistant features will help keep locker rooms in good working order and deter future vandalism. It also saves on ongoing repairs and maintenance costs.
Column showers with vandal-resistant features, such as security screws, usually perform better than other types of showers better suited for moderate or low traffic. An added benefit to column showers placed in the center of the shower room is that they minimize water sprayed on the outside walls, making the shower area easier to keep clean. Another convenience: Column showers can be configured to fit any application—from two to six user stations.
Another tip to maximize the number of showerheads in busy locker rooms: Combine column showers and wall showers to use all the available space. Today's newest fixtures offer a wide variety of valves, showerheads and options that meet individual facilities' needs.
For new showers on a tighter budget, hinged pivoting wall showers can be quickly installed and the special hinge door simplifies installation and ongoing maintenance, which saves time and money. By removing vandal-proof fasteners from one side of the shower panel, the unit swings away from the wall, providing easy access to components.
To ensure showers are accessible to all users, ADA-compliant showers are an option to consider, particularly if your facility caters to aging Americans or individuals with physical disabilities. Many types of shower configurations are available, from barrier-free surface-mounted shower units to handheld showerheads with slide bars.
One of the biggest challenges for fitness centers is actually getting patrons to shower in a public setting. The answer, particularly for more upscale facilities, is to offer users more privacy and more luxurious amenities. Be sure showers are not only clean and inviting, but also appealing to use. Better finishes throughout the restroom and locker room show visitors and club patrons their membership is valued.
For higher-end facilities, luxurious spa showers that pamper and indulge guests are a necessity. Rather than molded units, showers with ceramic- or glass-tile-adorned shower stalls with invisible glass partitions are common. "Rain" showerheads, multiple body sprays and handheld personal sprayers are the ultimate in aqua therapy.
Individual tile showers are appropriate for some types of facilities, but when budget and space dictate a more efficient solution, privacy curtains or "modesty modules" can be effective for larger shower areas. Similar to toilet partitions, modesty modules are low-profile stainless-steel partitions grouped around column showers and typically include a stall for showering and another area for dressing, separated by a curtain. The dressing stall can include a teakwood seat and robe hooks.
Selecting the perfect water temperature is a feature that most users in any facility expect if they are going to do more than just a quick rinse. It is easy—and safe—to do with pressure balancing or thermostatic shower valves. An added benefit is that these valves protect users from scalding.
New shower fixtures with the latest pressure-balancing valves that incorporate long-lasting European ceramic cartridge technology can help reduce maintenance. These ceramic cartridges have no wearing parts that will need to be replaced and are reversible to allow for back-to-back installation with a common wall, saving on installation and construction costs.
If keeping an organization's brand top-of-mind is important, aquatics centers, fitness centers and spas can customize their shower escutcheons with the company's logo. Plumbing manufacturers offer coordinating showerheads, handheld showerheads with slide bars and wall hooks, as well as faucets for lavatory systems that give the bath and shower area a well-designed appearance. The choices for these types of products and styles are virtually limitless—just be sure to choose durable commercial-grade fixtures.
Whatever type of recreation facility you manage, a few simple changes can have a dramatic impact on water savings. Low-flow showerheads can significantly reduce the gallons of water that are used each minute. Specifying individual or group showers with metering devices further controls water flow. Electronic metering valves are the most reliable and have a circuit board sealed within a pod to keep out moisture. These valves can be set with a longer running time to both encourage thorough showering and to eliminate flow interruption after 15 seconds. They ensure that water is not left running when not in use.
Focusing on showers is just a start. Specifying low-flow handwashing fixtures, toilets and waterless urinals, for example, can potentially reduce water consumption by more than 30 percent. This means even greater cost savings in water and sewer bills, as well as energy costs for heating water.
Maintaining and keeping shower areas clean is a continuous job. But there are some easy ways to help showers stay cleaner:
- Install solid-surface shower pans rather than hard-to-clean tile.
- Use larger tiles for less grout area on floors, and choose a darker epoxy grout.
- Keep as much piping as possible behind the walls.
- Look for showers made from chrome-plated brass or other durable material.
- Select moisture-resistant materials like solid plastic HDPE for benches, lockers and partitions.
Although installing more efficient shower fixtures and more durable accessories may add costs up front, their long-term advantages will save money over the building's life cycle. In addition to energy and cost savings, your facility will benefit from less maintenance and greater resistance to vandalism. Those are advantages that make a positive impact everyone—from owners and management to customers and visitors.
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