Washrooms can be a school maintenance headache for administrators.
If not maintained carefully and consistently, they can become breeding grounds for germs and bacteria that can jeopardize students' health. If not supervised adequately, they can become a target of vandals that inflict costly damage. If not designed to operate efficiently, their excessive use of water can become a drain on a school's budget.
Equipment and fixtures that operate automatically and don't require a user's touch to activate can cut down on the spread of germs, discourage the excessive use of water, ease the burden on maintenance workers and minimize opportunities for vandalism.
The obvious benefit of touchless fixtures is that they reduce the chances that a user will come into contact with germs. In addition, if a washroom has fewer pieces of equipment to touch, students who are prone to mischief will have fewer opportunities to misuse and damage equipment. And sensors that control the amount of water dispensed will prevent users from leaving a faucet running.
Improvements in school maintenance technology have made it possible to outfit a washroom with touchless equipment and fixtures that enable a user to minimize contact with possible sources of germs:
Toilets and urinals. Sensors can be installed that detect when someone is using the equipment and trigger the flushing mechanism when the user steps out of range of the sensor. Some sensors also may flush automatically after a set amount of time.
Automatic flushing can be a problem if the sensor doesn't work properly. If the flushing mechanism is triggered too easily, the system can end up wasting water and irritating users. Maintenance staffs should make sure the equipment is working as intended.
Automatic cleaning system. Toilets and urinals can be equipped with a system that automatically dispenses a cleaning solution that eliminates germs and odors.
Faucets. Washing hands is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of infection and illness. But a faucet could bring a user into contact with germs. Touchless controls enable users to trigger the flow of water by placing their hands below the spigot.
Soap. To wash hands effectively, soap is needed. Similar to automatic faucets, liquid soap dispensers have sensors to detect when users have placed their hands nearby and release a set amount of soap.
Hand drying. The effort put into hand washing may go for naught if germs and bacteria are waiting on paper towel dispensers or the "on" button of an air dryer. A motion detector on an air dryer can sense the presence of hands and activate the dryer for a set amount of time. Such sensors also can be installed on paper towel dispensers. When the sensor detects the presence of hands, it unrolls a set amount of paper for drying.
If paper towels are used, they must be disposed of properly. Wastebaskets also can be equipped with motion sensors that raise the trashcan lid when someone approaches to deposit trash, and lower the lid after a set amount of time.
Exit. The last spot in a washroom where a user might be exposed to germs is the exit door. Doors that open automatically help reduce the chance of acquiring germs this way. Some schools have opted not to have doors at washroom entrances and exits — in addition to reducing exposure to germs, it enables staff members to monitor student behavior in washrooms more easily.
Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].com.