From the day a child begins preschool or kindergarten to the day he or she is handed a college diploma as a young adult, washrooms are an unavoidable part of the education experience.
Education institutions need to focus on making their washrooms clean, well maintained and healthful, as well as a safe and accessible place for students to visit.
An unsafe or unpleasant washroom environment can affect the entire school environment. In upgrading washrooms, schools and universities may want to focus their attention on strategies that discourage vandalism.
Outside the watchful eyes of teachers, many students have been tempted to use school washrooms as a place to test the boundaries of good behavior.
Sometimes it manifests itself in harmless mischief; other times, it can result in costly vandalism and potentially dangerous situations.
Schools can deter vandalism by upgrading washrooms with equipment and fixtures that can withstand heavy use and abuse from students.
In Great Britain, a group called The Bog Standard, which was formed to improve washroom conditions for students, recommends several ways to deter vandalism.
Schools should consider installing:
Solid plastic panels for partitions that are bolted together with tamper-proof fasteners.
Cubicle doors with sturdy hinges and double bracing on both sides.
Pushbutton or foot-operated flushes.
Concealed plumbing systems with tamperproof fastenings.
Faucets that turn on and off automatically.
Video surveillance at the entrance to a washroom or in the washroom area (provided it doesn't see into cubicles or urinals). Cameras must be fixed firmly enough so that pupils can't turn or remove them. The group advises schools to consult with pupils on using video in this situation because it could be controversial.
Toilet-paper dispensers should be sturdy; if possible, bolt them back-to-back between stalls to make them harder to damage or vandalize.
In addition, many schools have decided to remove the entry doors from washrooms so that teachers and staff members can hear, or in some cases, smell potentially troublesome activity without having to enter and violate students' privacy.
In those washrooms, the urinals should be situated so that they can't be seen from the hallway. Likewise, mirrors should be placed so that they do not allow a view of the urinals from outside the washroom.
The layout of a washroom should not have any hidden spaces or corners that cannot be monitored effectively by staff members.
Schools also can use a washroom upgrade as an opportunity to conserve water. Cutting down on water consumption not only can save money, but also can provide students with a good example of environmental stewardship.
Low-flow toilets and faucets, and automatic sensors have helped many schools use water more efficiently. In the last few years, no-flush urinals that do not use any water have become more accepted in education institutions.
Instead of using water to flush away urine, the units have a disposable cartridge between the fixture and the drainpipe. The cartridge holds sealant liquid, and when urine flows into the cartridge, the sealant liquid creates a barrier. The cartridge filters and traps any sediment from the urine. The remaining urine flows out and down the drain.
Schools can save money with water-free urinals because they do not need a flush valve or a connection to water. However, the units must be maintained regularly to make sure that the cartridge and sealant liquid are working correctly to block odors.
1.5 to 3
Gallons of water conserved each time a no-water urinal is used.
200 to 350
Dollars saved annually per no-water urinal compared with a traditional urinal.
Source: Montgomery County (Md.) School District