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Water Conservation: Plumbing Fixtures Offer a Choice
December 29, 2011
Water conservation has become the standard in new restroom design — whether it is required to comply with local codes, obtain LEED points, curtail operating costs or appeal to environmentally conscious customers. Manufacturers have introduced new products to meet the demand, but maintenance and engineering managers who fail to perform due diligence on systems interaction and product applicability might find some surprises once those products are installed.
In some cases, the problem is one of perception, not a failure of the fixture to perform as intended. Managers, as well as occupants, are accustomed to toilets, sinks, and showers operating a certain way. When these products do not function as expected, managers find themselves on the hot seat. But it also is true that some water-saving products work better than others.
For new buildings, perhaps the most common water-saving restroom strategy is to specify dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets use either 1.1 gallons per flush (gpf) or 1.6 gpf, have been around for several years, and have been a successful option for water-conscious managers. They are also a good option because they can be retrofitted into existing buildings and used on smaller projects where occupants are determined to save water.
One issue with dual-flush toilets is users must pull up on the handle on the flush-valve fixture to deliver the flush that uses less water. The reflex for most people is to push down. This situation introduces a possible user error. How does a user know which way to push the handle for the desired flush? This problem makes actual water savings more difficult to predict.
Another type of dual-flush system is the dual-flush-tank water closet. These fixtures typically have push buttons on top, rather than a lever flush handle on the side, to make them ADA compliant.