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Operating A Sustainable Restroom



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March 18, 2018
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Operating A Sustainable Restroom

Imagine you’re a facility manager who’s just been given the keys to a brand new, LEED®-certified building. It’s been designed with sustainability in mind every step of the way, from the cladding materials on the wall panels to its energy-efficient lighting system. Now that the infrastructure is in place, how do you plan to operate the building in a sustainable, responsible manner?

The restroom provides ample opportunities for facility managers and operators to support the designer’s “green” intent and facilitate long-term savings through sustainable operation. It’s true that restrooms are often significant contributors to high usage of energy, water, consumables, as well as unnecessary waste. However, this is often a result of poor product selection, especially when it comes to hand dryers and paper towel dispensers.

By leveraging products designed with input from architects to address distinct sustainability and resource related challenges the hard work is already done—and the cost savings that accompanies sustainability is merely consequential.

Across building types and industries, facility managers and operators increasingly are facing pressure to operate more sustainably and economically. Until recently, accomplishing both goals might be seen as a paradox. While sustainability, at face value, brings a range of benefits—including tax advantages, social responsibility and positive public relations—using the right products and technologies can make an environmentally friendly strategy a highly cost-effective one.

Paper towel agility

Excessive paper towel usage is often a primary contributor to high-cost or inefficient restrooms. Even as hand dryers continue to gain in popularity, very few facilities can operate with hand dryers as the sole hand-drying option. Fortunately, solutions are available that provide operators with unprecedented agility and flexibility, allowing them to implement the paper towel dispensing configuration that is most sustainable and economical for their tenants at any given time.

Many facilities prefer folded paper towels due to the elimination of stub roll waste and their flexibility. For example, employees often use folded towels at their workstations, to remove makeup, to grab restroom door handles and clean up minor spills. Unfortunately, manual folded towel dispensers often are associated with a “clumping” effect that encourages wasteful, “handful” dispensing by patrons who desire a complete and thorough hand-dry.

Meanwhile, roll paper towel systems are generally considered more sustainable than folded paper towel systems. Contemporary automatic roll towel dispensers can feature adjustable towel pull lengths to limit the amount of towel dispensed per use, thereby reducing waste. Further, roll towel systems can permit open market purchasing freedom and cost savings by allowing facilities to utilize non-proprietary roll towels.

It should be noted that roll towel dispensing systems often produce a “stub roll” with a portion of unused paper towels that must be discarded, resulting in excess waste. However, some roll towel dispensers feature stub roll utilization functionality, ensuring that every roll goes its furthest.

To help operators remain agile when patron needs and preferences change—or when tenants change—towel dispensing units that permit interchangeable modules are available, allowing facilities to switch from folded to roll towels seamlessly, depending on their needs. These flexible units allow operators to utilize their existing dispensing and/or waste cabinet—and thus, existing real estate—to switch to the most sustainable, cost-effective towel option based on the tenant.

Further, facility operators and managers that employ manual folded paper towel dispensers can retrofit pull rod accessories into their existing dispensing cabinets to eliminate handful dispensing by separating individual C- or multifold towels. These units have been shown to be as economical as roll towel systems, reducing paper towel usage by up to 20 percent.

Evaporate energy costs

In recent years, evolving consumer preferences have driven demand for hand dryers with quicker dry times. Thus, high-speed dryers (or jet dryers) that hasten traffic flow have increased in popularity.

However, facilities that employ jet dryers should take special care when it comes to product selection. Selecting a jet dryer with a high-end aesthetic can support the design harmony of the restroom. Operators also should note the building’s noise requirements, as some units can operate as high as 100 decibels. Most significant, however, is that many jet dryers are primary culprits of high energy usage and operating costs in the restroom.

Fortunately, some contemporary high-speed dryers can meet patron needs without the energy costs typically associated with quick dry times, with some units boasting power ratings as low as 200 watts (0.2 kW). Newer technologies also can facilitate extended life expectancies—as much as 7,500 hours, or 10 years in high-traffic environments—which leads to reduced replacement cycles and further savings for the owner.

In the 1940s and 1950s, hand dryers took between 30 and 40 seconds to dry hands thoroughly and operated at about 2300 watts—roughly equivalent to the energy requirements of two dishwashers in 2018. Today, new technologies and solutions continue to make it easier for facility operators and managers to achieve their goals and operate restrooms with built-in economic and environmental value.

About the Author : David Leigh is Vice President of Marketing at Bobrick Washroom Equipment, Inc. David is responsible for overseeing all of Bobrick’s marketing efforts, including marketing strategy, media outreach and market opportunity analysis for Bobrick Washroom Equipment and Koala Kare Products.