Shopping Around

Oct. 1, 2004
Evaluating washroom uage factors and specific cost drivers can help schools select the most economically efficient equipment.

As one of the more important areas in a school facility, restrooms should be attractive and functional.

Evaluating the return on investment for restroom accessories and toilet partitions is critical, whether the project is new construction or renovation. Breaking down the costs of ongoing restroom accessory and toilet partition maintenance, repair and replacement can help a school provide attractive, functional facilities for students, faculty and staff at the lowest possible cost over the long term.

The durability, maintainability and repairability of equipment can be a real opportunity for labor cost containment.

Consider the frequency of servicing or replacing accessories and partitions. What is the nature of the damage? Is the school just getting by with minimally functional facilities? What are the specific equipment and labor costs related to heavy use, abuse and vandalism?

Some pros and cons of various equipment models, material and mounting configurations:

  • Stainless-steel washroom accessories

    Stainless steel provides moderate-to-good impact resistance, and excellent cleanability and corrosion resistance for paper towel dispensers and waste receptacles, sanitary napkin/tampon vendors and disposals, and toilet-tissue dispensers.

    Other material selections include plastic (ABS or polymer) and metal (painted, powder-coated or chrome-plated). Priced at about 50 percent less than stainless steel, these materials offer the advantage of low initial cost. Some school facility managers, who expect heavy use and abuse to take its toll rapidly no matter what, may prefer these materials because of their equally low replacement cost.

  • Warm-air hand dryers

    These can be substantial money-savers — a 90 percent reduction in operating costs compared with paper towel usage. Also, for vandal-prone restrooms, they reduce maintenance expense by eliminating paper for plugging toilets, sinks and urinals, and they minimize the availability of combustible materials for starting fires. However, beware of models with air-flow spouts that can be turned upward providing a receptacle for paper or liquids.

    A large selection of cover materials is available (listed in declining order of durability): vitreous enamel/cast iron, drawn steel, painted/cast aluminum and molded plastics.

  • Soap-dispensing options

    A variety of bulk-soap dispensers, including wall- and mirror-mounted models, is available. Materials include plastic, metal and stainless steel (available in low-profile, vandal-resistant configurations). Also available are the systems where small-cartridge plastic soap dispensers are provided free with purchase contracts for the soap.

    Large cartridges of soap can be installed under a counter to service up to five countertop dispensers with 13,000 hand washes for heavy-traffic restrooms; however, they are not recommended for highly vandal-prone K-12 facilities. Rather, they can be considered for restrooms adjacent to college and university commons and food-service operations. They substantially reduce maintenance labor costs and almost eliminate the problem of empty soap dispensers.

A vandal's dream

Toilet partitions are the No. 1 target of vandals. Purchasing considerations include: ease of graffiti removal without ghosting; scratch, dent and gouge resistance; ease of repairability without compromising structural integrity; mounting configuration durability; availability of heavy-duty, stainless-steel hardware with through-bolted fasteners and factory-installed inserts; moisture resistance for hose-down maintenance in locker rooms and near swimming pools; and fire-code compliance where required or desired.

The five basic materials:

  • Solid phenolic

    Considered among the most durable, solid phenolic provides excellent structural stability; is resistant to impact, moisture and graffiti; and is specified where maximum vandal resistance is required. Marks wipe away with solvent from its ultra-hard panel, door and stile surfaces without ghosting. Most manufacturers offer a large variety of colors, and Class A and B fire-code compliance are available.

  • Solid color reinforced composite (SCRC)

    SCRC provides all of the performance characteristics of solid phenolic and has solid color throughout, similar to solid plastic. As a result, it facilitates exceptional repairability and superior graffiti removal without ghosting. A limited number of colors is available. SCRC is Class B fire-rated and contributes to LEED program certification.

  • Solid plastic

    Polyethylene (HDPE) is appropriate for high-traffic washrooms and also where hose-down maintenance is performed. It offers a solid color core and good structural integrity. However, its soft, porous material is somewhat vulnerable to scratches, ghosting and graffiti, which can be removed by sanding down or melting the affected areas. A moderate number of colors is offered. Standard HDPE is not available with a fire rating.

  • Laminated plastic

    A substantial variety of colors and patterns is available. Panels, doors and stiles are fabricated with a core of heavy-duty particleboard. It is resistant to impact, graffiti, corrosion and scratches. Users should avoid installation where hose-down maintenance is required. Laminated plastic is Class B fire- rated.

  • Hollow-core metal

    Two major advantages: a wide range of color options and low cost. Appropriate applications are low-use restrooms for faculty and staff. Beware, however, as this material is vulnerable to scratching, graffiti, rust and corrosion. Class A fire rating is provided.

Three basic hardware materials are available: Zamak, stainless steel and aluminum, with some manufacturers offering heavy-duty hardware packages with continuous, full-height door hinges and U-channels. Additional hardware considerations include welded steel core and steel angle bar stile bases, through-bolted fasteners and factory-installed threaded inserts.

Mounting configurations include overhead-braced (the most stable), floor-anchored, ceiling-hung (facilitates floor maintenance), floor-to-ceiling anchored and barrier-free.

Gettelman is director of marketing, Bobrick Washroom Equipment, Inc., North Hollywood, Calif.


The five basic materials for toilet partitions:


Children's reach ranges

Refer to these charts to find washroom specifications within the given ADAAG ranges that are most approriate for a specific children's age group.

Forward or Side Reach Ages 3 and 4 Ages 5 to 8 Ages 9 to 12 High (maximum) 36" (915mm) 40" (1015mm) 44" (1120mm) Low (minimum) 20" (510mm) 18" (455mm) 16" (405mm) Specifications for Water Closets Serving Children Ages 3 to 12 Ages 3 and 4 Ages 5 to 8 Ages 9 to 12 Water Closet Centerline 12" (305mm) 12" to 15" (305 to 380mm) 15" to 18" (330 to 455mm) Toilet Seat Height 11" to 12" (280 to 305mm) 12" to 15" (305 to 380) 15" to 17" (380 to 430mm) Grab Bar Height 18" to 20" (455 to 510mm) 20" to 25" (510 to 635mm) 25" to 27" (635 to 685mm) Toilet-Tissue Dispenser Height 14" (355mm) 14" to 17" (355 to 430mm) 17" to 19" (430 to 485mm)

Washroom guide updates

Revised several times since the advent of ADAAG in 1990, the accessibility guidelines for washrooms now include the U.S. Access Board's Building Elements Design for Children's Use. This includes children's reach ranges and water closet, toilet seat, grab bar and toilet-tissue dispenser centerlines and heights by age. The data are offered as guidelines only and have not yet been adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Therefore, although they are not yet “enforceable,” they do offer guidance for future renovation and new construction.

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