Plumbing Systems and Water Savings

  October 6, 2009

I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s topic is water conservation. Restroom renovations often are costly and disruptive, but they also give facility managers an opportunity to improve appearance and functionality while reducing operating and maintenance costs. So before committing to a restroom renovation, managers can benefit by learning about the new generation of restroom products.

Chances are, much has changed in features, functions and performance since the original design of a typical existing restroom. Touchless controls and components are now standard, replacing manual valves and other devices and resulting in less water use and fewer maintenance requirements. New high-tech finishes resist vandalism and make surfaces and components easier to clean while reducing cleaning interval.

Successful restroom planning begins with an audit that identifies the type and level of use the restroom supports. Is it high-demand? High-profile? High-abuse? The type of application will determine the features and finishes managers need to specify.

Managers need to determine the traffic flow through the restroom, based on the historic and anticipated use. Consider not only average flow rate but also surge levels. While building codes can help identify the number of fixtures required, these numbers are minimum requirements that might need to increase to meet facility needs. In many high-profile facilities, the desire to maintain a polished image often outweighs the need for high flow rates. Managers need to make decisions on the quality and appearance of materials and finishes based on that polished image.

The audit also should evaluate any history of abuse. Understanding the way abuse has affected the operation will allow managers to select systems, components and finishes that resist those types of abuse. For example, if vandals frequently use paper to clog fixtures, install hand dryers. If paper-towel dispensers are essential, select a touchless fixture that limits the quantity of towels dispensed.

Finally, managers must evaluate the restroom’s maintenance history. What maintenance activities have taken place, and how often? What level of cleaning service has taken place, and how often?

Once managers understand these factors, they can identify steps to minimize both maintenance and cleaning, often without significantly increasing first costs.


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