Critical Facilities Summit

4  FM quick reads on restrooms

1. Money Watch: Restroom Maintenance


I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, controlling restroom maintenance costs.

In this age of cost cutting, maintenance and engineering managers are taking a closer look at all aspects of operations, including restrooms. They are examining maintenance, cleaning, energy use, and even supplies to reduce costs without curtailing service. Many managers have been successful by incorporating basic yet often overlooked features.

Sometimes, even the simplest design change can result in major reductions in maintenance costs over the life of a restroom. For example, installing isolation valves on every fixture and faucet will have minimal impact on first costs, but it will have a major impact on operations and maintenance costs. Without enough isolation valves, entire restrooms frequently must be shut down when one component needs replacing, disrupting operations and putting pressure on maintenance personnel to quickly resolve the issue.

Most restrooms are designed with one floor drain. But it is difficult to design and build restroom floors with enough slope to one drain. Installing multiple floor drains and adequately sloped floors can reduce cleaning time.

Stacked restrooms are common in multi-floor facilities. Stacking allows common water supply and waste lines to be installed, reducing costs. If restrooms are stacked, install suspended ceiling tiles to allow easy access to water supply and waste lines.

Every restroom cluster on each floor should include dedicated storage space for equipment and supplies. Too often, one location must serve an entire building. That means workers must haul supplies from that location to individual restrooms as needed, increasing labor costs.

Finally, the types of finishes in restrooms will affect maintenance requirements. For example, installing a vinyl wall covering where it will be exposed to water regularly will result in shorter service life and more frequent replacement. Ceramic tile can be four or five times more expensive than vinyl, but it is not subject to deterioration from exposure to water and typically will not require replacement until it is time to renovate the entire restroom.


2.  ADA: Ensuring Restroom Accessibility

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ensuring restroom accessibility.

Restrooms in institutional and commercial buildings remain common areas for accessibility challenges because of the many components related to accessibility, including doors, door hardware, and dispensers.

Managers first need to understand the individual accessibility standards that combine to produce an accessible restroom. Misapplying these standards and requirements or installing products incorrectly not only makes a restroom non-accessible for individuals with disabilities. It also will heighten the probability of lawsuits alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and state codes.

Remodeling and new construction projects usually trigger the application of new accessibility standards. If a remodeling or new construction project is not compliant, it is hard to defend the reasons for including newly installed features, such as soap dispensers, that are not compliant. The cost to install a soap dispenser incorrectly is usually the same as the cost to install a compliant dispenser.

Diligent managers do their homework when remodeling restrooms. Understanding accessibility requirements will result in the job being done right the first time.

Specifying compliant products and paying careful attention to installation details will result in restrooms that meet federal accessibility requirements of the ADA accessibility guidelines (ADAAG), as well as state codes. Compliance with ADA is a minimum standard. If a state standard requires a greater level of accessibility than ADAAG, the state standard applies.

3.  ADA: Successful Restroom Renovations

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ADA and successful restroom renovations.

Restroom renovations in institutional and commercial facilities offer maintenance and engineering managers major opportunities to produce numerous benefits. Among these benefits is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. To meet ADA requirements during renovation, managers must consider occupant count, fixture requirements, space requirements, and structural requirements.

For example, most ADA-compliance renovations result in the loss of a stall or a urinal as a result of changes to meet the 5-foot diameter requirement for stalls. If the number of existing fixtures is appropriate for the code governing the area population, the loss of a stall might require added construction costs.

Structural requirements also come into play with grab bars required in the ADA stall. Often, walls must be reinforced to accommodate the potential weight-bearing capacities of these bars.

Omitting reinforcement of existing walls when installing grab bars is problematic. For example, in one college's public restroom, the grab bar in the handicap stall was detached and hanging from the wall.

The grab bar had been installed into the wall using only mollies, which obviously could not support weight applied to the grab bar. It not only cost more money to rectify the situation at that point, but it also created a hazard and an inconvenience for the public.

4.  Understanding Key Plumbing Upgrade Considerations

I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses plumbing and restroom maintenance.

Many institutional and commercial facilities are installing a new generation of water-efficient plumbing fixtures — including flush valves, urinals, and faucets — at an ever-increasing rate. Their goals most often are to curtail water use by plumbing systems, reduce utility costs and improve the organization's overall sustainability.

But to ensure that these products deliver the desired benefits to the organization and the environment, maintenance and engineering managers who are making product selections need to carefully consider the maintenance impact these products are likely to have.

As maintenance and water costs rise, managers are increasingly installing pressure gages and flow meters at strategic locations in their buildings' plumbing systems to monitor the flow of water. Once managers are certain all of these readings are at normal levels, the next step is to look at individual fixtures and assess their condition. The first steps in effective troubleshooting involve knowing baseline flow readings, and monitoring, recording, and comparing the current readings.

Other efficiency considerations include lowering water use by replacing the aerator on the tap with a new one at a cost of a few dollars. The installation yields a new flow rate of one-half gpm. The flow is reduced by 3-1/2 gallons per minute.

Even if the valve operates just three minutes a day for 250 days per year, the annual savings from that level of operation would be more than 2,600 gallons. Ten faucets operating at that level would multiply the savings to 26,000 gallons.

Hygiene is also a critical component to successful restroom maintenance. Daily cleaning of the toilet seat, bowl, fixtures, and urinals is important to maintain an antiseptic, odor-free restroom.


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