4  FM quick reads on restrooms

1. Roofing: Making Photovoltaic Systems Work


I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic discusses photovoltaic systems.

The development of more efficient, cost-effective solar panels, combined with volatile energy prices, makes PV technology an attractive alternative for managing energy prices and supporting sustainability efforts. Maintenance and engineering managers considering installing a PV system need to consider several practical factors before, during, and after installation of a rooftop system.

Before installing a PV system, managers need to examine several critical factors, including business goals, energy audits, location, system size and type, roof age and type, budget, and financial incentives. Each of these factors will play an important role in the success of the project.

Prior to installing a new PV system, it is imperative to evaluate the condition of the existing roof system to determine the appropriate maintenance, repairs or replacement that might be required.

And, when installing a rooftop PV system, the roof becomes more than just a watertight barrier. It becomes a work surface with increased traffic.

Managers should consider incorporating a roof-maintenance program that begins with designing a more durable roof system and focuses on identifying potential leaks and making repairs before leaks occur.

The cost of installing a PV system has fallen dramatically in recent years, but available funding still might be a limiting factor. Current systems typically cost around $5 per watt. Although still expensive, managers should consider additional sources of funding that might reduce the overall cost to the facility owner.

Federal incentives for commercial businesses include a 30 percent tax credit on the total cost of the system and a five-year depreciation schedule, including a 50 percent bonus provided during the first year.

Many states and utilities also provide incentives and other options to consider that can reduce the payback period. Managers can visit www.dsire.org for more specific information on federal and state incentives.


2.  Tackling Restroom Hygiene Challenges

I'm Steve Schuster, associate editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is restroom hygiene challenges.

Few issues in institutional and commercial facilities generate as much discussion as restroom hygiene. Increased concerns about hygiene have led to more scrutiny of restrooms and their relation to human illness, as well as general indoor environmental quality. In turn, many managers have revamped their approach to specifying restroom products.

How should managers address hygiene challenges?

The first step is to understand the role of disinfectants and key restroom products from floors to walls — including flush valves, paper and soap dispensers, fixtures, counters, partitions, light switches, and sink faucets. All restroom surfaces and even the air carry microbes, which can be the source of hygiene issues if they are not properly cleaned, maintained, and periodically upgraded to incorporate new technology.

Restroom hygiene involves both seen and unseen challenges. The visible category is a combination of trash on the floor and counters; overflowing waste receptacles; dirty towels in dispensers; and dirty floors, walls, partitions, counters, and fixtures.

These are not only unpleasant and carry germs, but they also can cause users to avoid tasks for proper hygiene, such as flushing toilets and urinals, using soap and water, and using dispensers because of cross-contamination concerns. Regular, frequent cleaning of these components can create a bright, sparkling restroom that is much more likely to invite good hygiene habits and good housekeeping from users.

Challenges include germs, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which housekeepers should treat with chemical disinfectants and proper sanitizing methods.

Door handles and light switches can introduce staph infections. Wastebaskets can be sources of rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus. Flush handles can be sources of enterococcus and rotavirus. Faucet handles can be contaminated with rotavirus. Tissue boxes can contain rhinovirus. Dust anywhere can harbor a variety of germs, not just dirt.

The key weapon against these unseen challenges is a comprehensive restroom-sanitation program based on testing to identify specific needs and solutions. Flush valves, paper and soap dispensers, and sink faucets in many restrooms require visitors to touch them to use them.

The best way to ensure good hygiene is proper and frequent cleaning and disinfecting that kills all germs. The new range of touchless fixtures also can relieve some concerns about cross-contamination.

3.  Restroom Renovations: Quantifying Benefits

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

Restroom renovations in institutional and commercial facilities are among the most complex projects maintenance and engineering managers can undertake. At the same time, such projects can create cost-saving opportunities.

For example, installing products such as waterless urinals, low-flush commodes, automatic flush valves, faucets, soap and paper-towel dispensers, and automatic cleaning-chemical dispensers for commodes and urinals can produce tangible cost savings.

Many of these products require electrical power to function, either in the form of batteries or direct wiring. But direct wiring can pose concerns, as many older restrooms only have power for lights and exhaust fans. Adding equipment might require bringing in more power.

Renovations also allow for the installation of ceiling-mounted partitions and wall-mounted stools, which removes these obstacles from floors and can result in easier, faster, and better floor cleaning. But managers must remember that in older facilities, such products also might require additional structural reinforcement and plumbing, which means higher costs.

Installing a grouted, ceramic tile floor is another popular renovation option. Grouted tile provides better slip resistance, lower cleaning costs, and greater life-cycle benefits.

Epoxy grout is nonporous and provides better hygienic benefits and color stability. But managers must make sure to measure hydrostatic pressure on slab installations. Epoxy grout does not breathe, and if the pressure readings exceed 3 pounds per square inch, installers should use cementitious grout or prepare the floor to seal the slab. Cementitious grout will breathe, allowing slab moisture to evaporate and preventing pressure damage to the floor installation.

4.  Common ADA Violations

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, common ADA violations.

Where do the most common violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act occur in institutional and commercial facilities? Truth be told, violations occur in nearly every area of a facility. Consider these examples:

The built environment. Violations range from ramps that are too steep to a lack of marked parking spaces with marked access aisles and signs. Ground markings don't count because visitors can't see them at night or when it has just snowed.

Restrooms. The most common violations include toilets that are not mounted the correct distance from wall or partition, as well as flush valves for toilets that are on the wrong side. In the latter case, if the handle isn't on the wide side, a user must reach over the toilet to flush it.

Operations. Many common violations are operational in nature, meaning they were not designed or constructed that way.

For example, a housekeeper places a garbage can next to a restroom exit door. Clear space next to a door gives a wheelchair user the space to approach the door, reach the handle and open it, but this is not possible if the garbage can is in the way. A worker also might place a garbage can directly in front of an elevator's call buttons, which hampers the ability of someone using a wheelchair or a walker to reach the buttons.

Also, in some facilities, on walls in the circulation route workers mount objects that project 4 inches or more from the wall. If the objects are between 27 inches to 80 inches from the floor, a person with a visual disability will miss the item when doing a cane sweep and walk into the object, risking injury and a lawsuit.


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