Web Exclusive - January 2012
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Operations & Maintenance: Locker Rooms

Quality Materials, Security Improve Locker Room, Restroom Upkeep

By Deborah L. Vence

Design, Materials to Ease Maintenance, Costs

Reducing maintenance expenses can be challenging, but locker material selection is key in helping to keep costs down. That is, the actual design and materials used can help offset maintenance costs.

"From [our] perspective, locker material selection is paramount in lowering maintenance costs in restrooms. Choosing solid plastic material over metal can minimize locker maintenance time and costs and extend the lifecycle of the lockers," said Val Bonney, product manager for a Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based locker manufacturer.

"Choosing solid plastic material over metal can minimize locker maintenance time and costs and extend the lifecycle of the lockers," Bonney said.

"First, plastic lockers are known for being highly durable and stand up well to repeated everyday use in tough environments—particularly in humid or wet environments typical for locker room areas. Unlike metal lockers, solid plastic lockers remain unaffected by moisture, making them rust-resistant," she said.

And, besides being odor-resistant, solid plastic lockers are designed to withstand impact, dents and scratches that would easily damage metal lockers and never need to be repainted.

"With solid plastic, maintenance staff can easily wipe away dirt, graffiti, spray paint and markers with everyday cleaners," Bonney said.

"They can even be completely cleaned out with a hose for fast washdown. In contrast, old, rusted-out metal lockers with chipping paint not only look bad, but also raise maintenance concerns and can leave a bad impression of the facility with locker room users."

Not to mention the fact that there is a cost difference between plastic and metal lockers.

"Although plastic lockers have a higher initial cost, over the long run they are much more cost-effective than metal. Moreover, the typical warranty for metal lockers is one year, compared with 10 to 20 years for plastic lockers," she said.

"Plastic lockers are available in a range of colors beyond traditional gray that can complement just about any locker room design," Bonney added. "It's a good idea to coordinate the locker color selection with nearby fixtures such as toilet partitions (also available in solid plastic), lavatories, flooring and walls to ensure that your restrooms and locker rooms have a cohesive, well-thought-out look."

Furthermore, Bonney noted that solid plastic lockers are also a better choice for the environment and are made of resilient recycled material, with the choice of 30 percent pre-consumer content or 100 percent post-consumer content. Each locker is made from recycled milk jugs that otherwise might have ended up in a landfill. She noted that her company's locker division recently received Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certification and Greenguard Children & Schools Certification, "which confirms the materials used in production and the locker end product are making a significant contribution to indoor air quality by meeting strict chemical and particle emission standards."

McKenna, of Cannon Design, agrees that solid plastic is a resilient material.

"From a materials durability standpoint, solid plastic is incredibly durable, graffiti-resistant and can take a tremendous amount of abuse," McKenna said, adding that flooring and toilet partitions need to be a consideration, too, in helping to reduce maintenance costs.

"If the floor is properly sloped to a drain, it makes it really easy to hose down and clean as well," she said.

Also, "There are many vendors and suppliers that will do an overhead raised shower partition and the partition won't hit the floor," McKenna added. "You've seen them in the shower stalls where they all come down to the ground. But, there are companies and suppliers that supply overhead, all elevated, off the ground. It makes it easier to clean the floors."

Bob Martin, president of an Ontario, Canada-based locker manufacturing company, also noted that his company uses materials that are "100 percent recycled for conservation, environmentally friendly, engineered to resist rotting, infestation, warping, delaminating, etc.

"The materials we use offset replacement costs. Architects that design health and fitness clubs tell us that on the average a club owner will replace lockers every 11 years," Martin said. "Our lockers last more than 28 years (some of our original lockers manufactured in 1982 are still in use). The reason clubs replace lockers is for aesthetic reasons, i.e., change the color or size, change the options."